Free Radicals

Demos is delighted to announce the launch of a new report Free Radicals, exploring what the most pressing concerns and aspirations of Britain’s self-employed workers are today. Read the report in full here.

The steady rise of self-employment has been one of the most significant labour market trends of the past two decades. Public policy however, has yet to catch up with this extraordinary rise, leaving self-employed workers in desperate need of a new deal.

Drawing on the findings of original new polling and focus group Demos conducted with self-employed workers in Leeds and London, the new research finds that:

  • Despite difficulties posed by greater economic insecurity, self-employment is extremely popular, with 80% stating they are happy with this form of employment.
  • 70% of self-employed workers intend to stay in self-employment for the foreseeable future, with only 2% of workers stating they would consider switching to employee status as soon as possible.
  • Economic insecurity in later-life is the most pressing challenge for Britain’s burgeoning self-employed workforce, with 1 in 2 self-employed workers “seriously concerned” about their lack of savings for retirement (46%), whilst 38 per cent are “seriously concerned” with current pension provision for the self-employed.

The report proposes thirty policy recommendations across six areas – savings, tax, training, working conditions, the platform economy and welfare. These include:

  • The introduction of an auto-enrolment pension scheme for solo self-employers, with the Government funding contributions that match the employer level of contributions from April 2019.
  • A new engagers’ tax to help fund an auto-enrolment scheme. This would initially be levied at 2.5 per cent on a given firm’s annual expenditure on contracted self-employed labour, rising to 5 per cent in 2021 and 7.5 per cent by the end of the Parliament.