Posted: Tue 11th Apr 2023
Nearly half of self-employed workers in the UK are aged 50 or older, new research reveals.
According to analysis of Office of National Statistics data by digital community Rest Less, 48% of freelancers, contractors and other self-employed individuals are 50 or over, the highest proportion in a decade.
The number of self-employed workers over 50 has increased by 18% during the past 10 years, compared to the proportion of those under 50 which has been in steady decline.
Proportion of self-employed workforce by age group
Self-employed workforce aged over 50, 2012-2022
Stuart Lewis, chief executive of Rest Less, said the figures reflect "changing attitudes towards work and retirement" amongst the over 50s generation who are looking for flexible ways to remain active in the workforce and maintain a sense of purpose.
"Technological advancements mean setting up a business in your 50s or 60s has never been easier and armed with rich life experience and a valuable business network behind them, the appeal of building something of their own or pursuing a passion project can be a powerful draw."
The government has a focus on the over 50s with incentives aimed at encouraging those who are unemployed to return to work announced in the Spring Budget last month.
But Lewis said there are challenges:
"There is a more sinister side to the rise in self-employment amongst this age group. Shut out of the mainstream workforce due to a lack of flexible working opportunities and rampant age discrimination in the workplace means many older workers have no choice but to set up on their own.
"Stuck between a rock and a hard place with a rising cost of living and the state pension age soon to be extended to 67, self-employment can feel like the only option for many who have been denied access to traditional employment."
Start-up and self-employment support for the over 50s
Enterprise Nation has urged the government to support the over 50s to start their own business or move into employment including calling on the Department for Work and Pensions to review the self-employment targets for the Restart programme so the focus is rebalanced from finding people jobs to supporting people to create their own.
Many more are 'unretiring', retraining and launching their own business. According to Enterprise Nation's 2022 quarter four Small Business Barometer, around a third (35%) of small businesses are new started by people in their late 40s onwards.
We say that the government should consider working with the private sector and established groups in the mature employment sector to form a consortium to support entrepreneurs and attract this talent back into small and large businesses alike.