Posted: Mon 21st Apr 2014
Following a release last week from the Office for National Statistics showing self-employment significantly on the up, the TUC decided to respond with a distinct lack of celebration. Sadly, the media decided to cover it.
Emma Jones (@emmaljones) is a business expert, author and founder of Enterprise Nation
"Self-employed not creating jobs," cried the FT.
"This is a sign of a weak labour market," said Nicola Smith of the TUC on BBC's Newsnight.
This latter archaic and ill-informed view was uttered to a background track of 'Only Fools and Horses' showing in one clip how outdated both the TUC and BBC are when it comes to enterprise and self-employment.
If you were as amazed as me to see the TUC talking about self-employment - as that would seem to be turkeys voting for Christmas in having the TUC support self-employment - it becomes more understandable when you read that the programme's economics correspondent is a former TUC official.
But back to the issue. Let me offer some figures to make the case for enterprise and self-employment:
Record numbers of people are starting a business. When I ran the Startup Britain campaign, we launched a Tracker to keep note. That Tracker recorded on Friday 13th December 2013 a historic moment. For the first time, the UK hit over half a million StartUps created in that year alone. When we asked the BBC if they wanted to cover this great achievement, the reply was: "No, as this week we have a series focused on debt."
The figures released from the Office for National Statistics show that between September 2013 to February 2014, the number of self-employed people increased by 146,000 to reach 4.5 million, accounting for the majority of the increase in employment across the UK ie the self-employed are powering the economy more than any other group.
Most people are choosing to start a business, as opposed to out of necessity. This has been confirmed in the respected Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, which showed "In the UK in 2012, for the first time since GEM records began, almost one quarter of working age individuals were engaged in entrepreneurial activity or intended to start a business within the next three years. 6.0% of the working age adult population were opportunity-motivated early-stage entrepreneurs, compared with 5.1% in 2010, and 1.8 identified as necessity-driven early-stage entrepreneurs."
The reason the self-employed are not employing people is because they are growing by outsourcing and sub-contracting as opposed to hiring staff. In a 2013 Enterprise Nation Survey, 86% of respondents confirmed they were planning to grow turnover and profits in the next 12 months. Only 16% were planning to do so by taking on staff. The majority are distributing wealth and work to fellow freelancers and professionals - and hiring talent when cashflow allows. In so doing, they are growing in the most risk-managed way and spreading money around the UK.
How can this not be celebrated?
BBC and TUC: you are going to have to accept that a structural change is underway; it's one that sees millions of people choose freedom and flexibility to be their own boss, over the insecurity of working for someone else. It is seeing at-home entrepreneurs start and grow high turnover businesses that create wealth, not jobs. It is seeing businesses grow in the most modern way; by outsourcing and subcontracting work to increase turnover, as opposed to headcount. Get used to it - this economic model is here to stay.
On behalf of the millions of enterprising and wealth-creating people of the UK, I ask you not to berate or denigrate what you don't like to accept. Let's celebrate the good news this represents and get on with creating a true Enterprise Nation.