CWS 3.0: April 23, 2014

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Thousands of UK Self-Employed Lacked Options; Prefer Permanent Worker Status

Long-term unemployment has reached record levels across the European Union, with nearly half of those out of work having been jobless for more than a year, according to data from Eurostat, the statistical body of the EU.

Despite the high levels of unemployment, recent data reported by British newspaper The Independent revealed that a tenth of Britain’s 4.5 million strong self-employed workforce would rather have a “normal” job.

What constitutes a normal job? A survey from the Ipsos Mori think-tank located in the U.K. and Ireland found that more than a quarter (28 percent) of the people declaring themselves self-employed over the last five years would prefer to be permanent employees, a far higher proportion than among people who have been self-employed for longer than five years.

According to Conor D’Arcy, a researcher at the Ipsos Mori think-tank, “The U.K. has had impressive employment growth over recent months, a sizable proportion of which has been driven by an explosion in self-employment. That’s why it’s vital we know more about these new self-employed workers.”

“Some will see themselves as entrepreneurs and revel in setting up their own business — the clear majority still prefer to be their own boss. But a considerable minority appear to be there unwillingly or at least would prefer the security of being an employee given the choice,” he added. Of the 1.7 million people declaring themselves self-employed in the past five years, 450,000 did so because they lacked an alternative.

In the three months to February 2014, the number of people out of work in the U.K. fell by 77,000 to a five-year low of 2.24 million. The official unemployment figure dropped to 6.9 percent but remains stubbornly above the pre-recession level of 5.2 percent for late 2007/early 2008.

The unemployment figure may have improved, but there are potentially 450,000 self-employed workers who would still prefer a permanent employee contract and, given the opportunity, will make a move.  

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