The financial crisis of 2007 – 2008 crippled many economies around the world, including the UK’s, which was left with a dramatic slow-down in GDP growth as well as a rise in unemployment numbers.
By August of 2011, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released data showing over 8% of the workforce (2.65 million people) were unemployed. This was the highest rate since 1994, but it was also a turning point for the economy.
Since then, we have seen a slow but steady recovery, with recent data confirming that 395,000 more people are in employment compared to this time last year.
Interestingly, 150,000 of these are self-employed people.
In previous economic downturns we’ve seen people turn to self-employment as a result of becoming unemployed, but they have then returned to employee jobs once the economy has made a recovery. This time around, the self-employed are staying put and it’s the female entrepreneurs that are responsible for the strongest growth in this employment category.
Over the past two years, the number of self-employed women has increased by 9.6%, compared to 3.3% men. This could explain why the economic areas where we are seeing the biggest rise in entrepreneurs are in non-traditional fields such as administration and personal services.
There could be many possible reasons for this development. Women are often faced with difficulties balancing work and family commitments, keeping regular office hours can be challenging when an employer is not willing to offer her a flexible solution; self-employment could be an attractive choice.
Women looking to have a career are often faced with gender inequalities and can find themselves with both a lower salary and fewer career opportunities than their male colleagues. For these women, self-employment means not having to punch through the glass ceiling.
Not everything about self-employment is good though. Male and female entrepreneurs alike could end up struggling with getting enough work to pay their bills. Others might find that they get too much to do, leaving them having to work very long hours. In times of trouble, if you’re ill or if you have to care for sick children, self-employment can’t offer the same job security or back-up that employee jobs can.
For the economy though, it’s excellent news. Of the economically inactive population over 50, 62 % are women. This large group is often carrying out unpaid work caring for their family so any opportunity to get them back into the money-making business and back on as tax-payers will have a positive effect on the whole economy.
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