Quest for flexibility behind surge in older freelancers

New research from IPSE shows a big rise in highly skilled freelancers over 50 seeking greater flexibility and a higher than average rate of redundancy are among factors fuelling a rise in self employment.



The number of self employed people over 50 is rising fast, fuelled in part by a big increase in the number of highly skilled freelancers but also by higher than average redundancy levels, according to new research from IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed).

The research shows there are now almost two million (1,907,000) self-employed people over the age of 50 in the UK: a number that has increased by 58.5 per cent in the last 10 years.

It says the growth is even bigger among highly skilled freelancers, with around 950,000 over 50 in the UK. That number has risen by 68.2 per cent in the last 10 years, says IPSE.

It attributes this to four key factors:

  • Being able to work more flexibly (89% agreed this was a factor)
  • Having more control over work (89%)
  • Having more control over hours (84%)
  • The freedom to choose where to work (83%)

A quarter of freelancers, however, said that losing their previous job was a factor in turning to freelancing. This is compared to just seven per cent of 16-29-year-olds.

The report does show, however, that most are happy to be freelancing. Four out of five (81%) said they were happy with freelancing – compared with three out of five 16-29-year-olds. Remarkably, 0 per cent disagreed with the statement that freelancing suited their lifestyle – compared to an average of 10 per cent among other age groups.

IPSE’s Head of Research, Chloé Jepps, said: “This research clearly shows that over 50s have played a crucial part in the growth of self-employment in the last 10 years. And what’s remarkable – aside from the sheer number of older people turning to freelancing – is how happy they seem to be with it.

“Over 50s are looking to freelancing for greater flexibility and control over how and when they work. For some, it is a way to move away from the confines of the 9-5; for others, it’s a way to launch or develop a passion project.

“It is clear that freelancing is not just an economic good for this country: it is also a great social good and a liberating force for millions of older workers. It is vital the government gets behind this remarkable shift in our workforce.”

The report comes as a poll by Fidelity International shows 52% of adults are planning to carry on working at least part time in their retirement.

The poll of 2,400 people in the UK, conducted by Fidelity International, found that while most workers planned to retire from their primary job at the age of 66, many expected to continue to work in some capacity. It also found that 45 per cent expected to work past the age of 70, and nearly one in 10 (9 per cent) planned to keep working into their 80s.

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