By Marcus Leach

The Prime Minister has applauded the growth in the freelance community as new research reveals a 12%1 increase in the number of people opting to become freelancers.

Figures released by Kingston University and PCG for National Freelancers Day show that the number of freelancers in the UK now totals 1.56 million1 or 1 in 20 in the UK workforce. This is up from the previous figure of 1.4 million, revealed by the University’s initial study in 2008.

This comes in a week when the sector is celebrating National Freelancers Day 23 November 2011 and freelancers were given a ringing endorsement by the Prime Minister David Cameron.

“I have a huge respect for all those who make the brave decision to branch out on their own and take control over the way they work," Mr Cameron said.

"This Government recognises the valuable contribution that freelancers make to the economy and, as more and more people choose to join your ranks, you have all our support.”

The new freelance figures, which look at independent professional freelancers in the UK, are taken from an analysis of ONS and Government data. They come at a time when unemployment in the same three-year period between 2008 and 2011 has increased by almost 50% to 2.49 million and employment has declined by 400,000(dataset analysis of April to June statistics by Kingston University) - unemployment has since risen to 2.62 million2.

Within the sector the survey reveals that the highest proportion of freelancers work in arts literary and media occupations (265,000), followed by management (161,000), then teaching/education (110,000), with IT/Telecommunications (93,000) rounding off the top four3.
The study was commissioned by PCG, the founders of National Freelancers Day and the UK’s biggest organisation representing this growing sector of independent professionals. PCG’s Managing Director John Brazier welcomed the research figures, commenting:

“The figures underline the steady growth in the sector in turbulent times, and confirm a widely held belief that more and more skilled and talented individuals are opting for freelancing as a work/lifestyle choice, or because of economic circumstances. Freelancers are offering industry and commerce a flexible talent stream when and where it is needed.”

Notably the research also flagged the rise of the ‘mumpreneurs’ as the 2011 figures show a 25% rise in the number of working mums turning to freelancing. Around 210,000 working mums have chosen the freelance path against 167,000 in 20084. This is equivalent to 1 in 8 freelancers being a working mum.

The full research, including a breakdown of strong and weak sectors is under intense analysis and the final report will be released later this year.

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