"Massive shift" to self-employment on horizon

The number of self-employed people in the UK has already risen significantly in recent years. Now the latest research predicts that numbers could swell by up to 3.5 million workers.

A study by AXA Business Insurance has found that the shift towards self-employment in the UK is set to accelerate in the next year.

One in ten (11%) of British people intend to start their own business in the next 12 months, according to AXA's survey of 9,000 UK residents. This equates to 3.5 million people potentially venturing into self-employment.

Few of these people are just idle dreamers: 87% of respondents were able to cite significant steps they had already taken to start their business, such as applying for finance, taking qualifications or building a website. And 40% are developing client relationships to the extent that they already have projects underway.

Instability is proving to be a key driver of self-employment ambitions for many people. The report shows that fears about redundancy, relocation or other disruptions are fuelling concerns about job security. Four in ten of these budding entrepreneurs saying their current job is unlikely to last beyond 2021: one in ten say it may not last the year, and an equal number say they don't feel secure from one month to the next.

It is people working in professional roles who are most likely to feel exposed rather than lower income workers - and 45% of those who do not see their job lasting beyond 2021 were in middle management or corporate roles (with titles such as chief financial director, senior marketing manager and even ceo).

Over half (53%) of those surveyed said they will quit their job once they start up; 30% say they will reduce their hours; and one in five say will run their business on the side.

Those most inclined to throw caution to the wind are older people: seven in ten of those over 45 say they will quit the day job, compared to just two in ten of the youngest entrepreneurs. An appetite for radical change among older people was also seen in the types of businesses planned - 88% of over-55s said they would start their business in a field unrelated to their current job.

Gareth Howell, managing director of AXA Insurance, said: "We believe there is a seismic shift underway in the way people work and plan for their futures. Running a business is no longer the preserve of the few, but is becoming a normal career progression, whether it runs alongside a job or is the sole source of income."

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