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Rising job levels since recession driven by surge in self-employment, says TUC

The rising number of people in work since the recession has been driven by a surge in self-employment, according to a study published today by the TUC, on the same day as ONS job figures are released.

The study shows that since the start of the recession in 2008 the small rise in employment levels has been driven by a 9% rise in the number of self-employed workers (up 330,000). Over the same period, the number of employees has actually fallen by 1% (down 284,000).

The analysis based on figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found since early 2010, under half of new jobs created have been self-employed roles, even though just 14% of workers are self-employed. The TUC fears that this sharp rise in self-employment could be masking the true extent of unemployment as people previously in work 'go freelance', start their own businesses or are forced into false self-employment, rather than sign on.

Self-employment is up across the economy, with significant increases in all areas of work. The largest increases have been in administrative and secretarial work (52% rise), sales and customer service roles (32% rise) and personal service occupations, such as hairdressing, cleaning and care work (31% rise).

This suggests, says the TUC, that rather than running their own businesses, many people could be undertaking false self-employment, doing the same work as contracted employees but on poorer terms and conditions.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "We know that the harsh economic climate is having a huge effect on the amount of work that those fortunate enough to have a job are able to get, with over three million people saying they would like more hours than they currently have.

"Ministers brush away these concerns by saying that there are more people in work than ever before. What's not clear though is how many of these new jobs actually offer secure and regular paid work, let alone enough hours to make ends meet.

"More than in one in three new jobs created since 2010 have been self-employed roles. It would be naïve to think that these are all budding entrepreneurs.

O'Grady continued: "Worryingly, the figures suggest that many of those who have lost their jobs over the last few years are not simply choosing to go freelance, but are being forced into false self-employment, which is often insecure and poorly paid.

"Small falls in unemployment levels in recent months have been welcome, but our better than expected employment figures are masking high levels of under-employment and falsely self-employed workers, who may have hardly any paid work at all."

She added: "We desperately need more decently paid full-time roles to bring unemployment down sharply, and we need a proper economic recovery to achieve this."