Self-employment and the gig economy

The self-employed are a large and growing part of the UK labour force. Five million people—15% of workers—are now self-employed, and the expansion of self-employment has played a significant part in current record employment levels. New technology has facilitated the growth of the “gig economy”, which has led to a large number of positive developments and opportunities, as well as continuing to alter the nature of work in many sectors. This continued growth in self-employment presents fundamental challengesfor the welfare state. Our welfare system is founded on contribution. Workers pay in through National Insurance Contributions (NICs), and receive support in return. Historically, self-employed people received much less support than employees. Now, following the introduction of the New State Pension, entitlement to all of the services funded by National Insurance is almost equalised. Yet self-employed workers contribute far less. The incoming government must set out a roadmap for equalising self-employed and employee NICs. To fail to do so would be to weaken further a crucial pillar of the welfare social contract. Self-employment is neither inherently good nor bad. It can represent entrepreneurial zeal and a highly desirable culture of self-reliance. It can also be deeply negative, allowing companies to evade responsibility for their workers’ wellbeing and increase their profits. It is incumbent on Government to close loopholes that incentivise this behaviour.


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Self-employment and the gig economy
United Kingdom Parliament (2017), Self-employment and the gig economy, London.


  • Other
  • United Kingdom
  • Yes
  • no specific sector focus
  • social protection, taxation
  • English
  • United Kingdom Parliament (Government)
  • 2017
  • Open access
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