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The home working revolution continues

Labour Force Survey shows continued rise through decade


A new analysis of data from the UK Labour Force Survey shows a continued rise in the number of people working mainly from home*.

At the end of 2009, 12.8% of the workforce (3.7 million people) worked mainly at or from home. This is a 21% increase since 2001.

The region with the highest level of homeworking is the South West, at 15.6%, followed by the South East (15.2%) and the East of England (14%).

The lowest levels are in Scotland (9.8%), North East of England (10.1%) and the North West and Northern Ireland (11%).

The link with self-employment

Despite the increasing numbers of companies offering their employees the chance to work from home, around two-thirds of homeworkers are self-employed.  This is probably part of the explanation of the difference between regions, with areas that have lower levels of self-employment likely also to have less homeworking.

Homeworking is more prevalent in rural areas in the UK. At the end of 2009, 18.88% of the rural workforce was working at/from home, compared to 11.24% of
the urban workforce. The proportion of rural workers who are self-employed homeworkers is 12.24%, almost double the urban figure of 6.75%. At least two-thirds of rural homeworkers are self-employed. 

London is the main exception to this rule, where 13.6% of the workforce are homeworkers.  In London, some 16.3% of the workforce are self-employed.

Between 2001 and 2009, the number of home-based businesses (self-employed and mainly working from home) rose by 22% (2.3 million people in 2009).

What about employees?

The figure for self-employment excludes those who run limited companies from home. Many previously self-employed people have chosen to run their businesses as registered companies in the last ten years. A study on freelancing in 2009 for the Professional Contractors Group by Kingston University found that the number of freelancers (self-employed, plus directors of limited companies with no employees, plus freelancers working under a PAYE umbrella company) was around 4 million people, and grew 20% between 1998 and 2008 (Kitching & Smallbone, 2009).

Around 5% of employees in the workforce work mainly from home.  And this includes a proportion of those who are freelancers (etc) who have set themselves up as a company.

However, the number of employees who work part of the time from home is now at around the 20% mark.  We expect this to be an area of substantial future growth as more employees work part-time from home, and some who now work part-time increase the number of days they spend away from the office.

We will provide further analysis of this in the weeks ahead.

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* The analysis was carried out as part of the Workhubs study, supported by the UK Department of Communities and Local Government, the Homes & Communities Agency, Commission for Rural Communities, Advantage West Midlands and South East of England Development Agency.


 


 

July 2010

 

Flexibility comment

The  rise in the levels of homeworking - 20% over the decade - is a significant indicator of wider changes taking place in the world of work.

1 in 8 people in work now works mostly at or from home. Another 20% do so for less than 3 days per week.

Very significant also in these troubled times is the link between home-based working and self-employment.

At a time when the UK government is seeking to reduce public sector employment (now accounting for about 6 million, or 1 in 5, jobs), the link between home-based working and entrepreneurship needs to come centre stage.

Every encouragement needs to be given to home-based enterprise, with incentives to set up new businesses and the removal of barriers to working from home.  The way forward is 'spaceless growth', i.e. low carbon growth that cuts out the need for additional property and minimises the need to travel.

 

 


 

 


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