The freelance and flexible employee market is a growing and advancing unit of the UK workforce. The TUC found that 4.7 million people currently work in the gig economy, a number that has doubled since 2016. Companies are clearly benefitting from the flexible workforce, but on a wider scale the overarching economy is also reaping the benefits with IPSE estimating that freelancers contribute £130 billion to the UK economy.
Without the gig economy, the UK’s most advanced sectors stand to suffer an acute skills deficit. A number of UK-based start-ups and scale-ups rely on freelance experts and the ability to hire the best of certain industries for a short period of time. This allows growing businesses without the resource to pay senior level employees full-time to benefit from their experience and expertise to help the business grow.
Research collated by ETZ which looks at UK organisations that depend on freelancers, shows how the following industries have benefited from the freelance workforce:
1. IT and Programming
IT departments are hiring the most freelancers in the country with 41% hiring gig economy workers. Increasing numbers of highly skilled and specialised data scientists, developers and software engineers are choosing to work under zero-hour terms as consultants allowing them to work on their own terms and for multiple companies.
A third of production departments in the UK are utilising freelance employees. This includes teams that work within manufacturing, construction and fabricating.
28% of sales teams are hiring workers from the gig economy arena. These workers may be being hired as freelancers and applying their sales knowledge and experience across a range of businesses in a way that is mutually beneficial for themselves and the companies they are working for.
In fourth place is marketing. 27% of marketing departments employ freelancers. This is an extremely diverse sector that employs both creative and business savvy workers to complete tasks from web design to marketing strategy.
Of the sectors found to be utilising freelancers more than ever before, the following were found to have the highest growth in freelance employment:
The UK healthcare sector has had a staggering 191% growth in hiring freelancers over the past decade. These include people working as self-employed medical writers and those working to care for others in a freelance capacity.
2. Sports and Fitness
As the sports and fitness industry grows and diversifies with society becoming more health conscious, the sector has had a 103% growth in hiring freelancers across the past 10 years. Many personal trainers and sports coaches work in a freelance capacity allowing them to exercise with clients in a range of environments.
3. Arts, Literature and Media
With advances in technology constantly happening that enable new ways to create and distribute art and other media, it is no surprise that this sector has also seen a 103% growth in hiring freelancers. Many people work in these industries as contractors moving from project to project in roles such as editors, copywriters and designers.
It is clear from this research that the gig economy is made up of highly skilled freelance workers who are opting to work in a freelance capacity either because it suits their lifestyle or because it is more lucrative for them.
However, many are put off pursuing this flexible lifestyle due to inconsistent and late payments that blight the arena. Research from ETZ found that 4.5 million Brits have considered leaving or have left freelance work due to inconsistent or late payments. This was found to be true for 2.8 million middle class (ABC1) workers.
The gig economy is an arena of workers that is growing exponentially in the UK with more highly skilled talent seeing the freelance lifestyle as a lucrative option. Although, revolutionary app technology means that there is a plethora of jobs for courier and taxi drivers, the gig economy is not limited to these manual workers. One consistent issue that many freelance employees face is late and inconsistent payments as a result of archaic payment systems. It is imperative that these issues are fixed with modern technology so that highly skilled workers are not dissuaded from working in an arena that they could really benefit from.
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