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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > June 2016 > Self-employed nation

Self-employed nation

The benefits are becoming too clear to ignore—but the system still favours employees and their staff

It is a little early to start the celebrations, but if, like me, you are one of the UK’s growing number of self-employed people it looks as though the moment is finally arriving when a government feels it is worth acknowledging your existence. You could do worse than turn to page 47 of this year’s Budget, where you will find six paragraphs under the heading “Supporting the self-employed.” That is the first time a whole section has been given over to a group that now makes up roughly 15 per cent of the UK’s working population. It’s a sign that a political constituency is achieving critical mass.

This cameo appearance by the self-employed in the biggest political set piece of the year marks the high point so far of a long march to relevance in a system still set up for and dominated by employers and employees.

One of the first clear signs that political attention was turning to the self-employed came on National Freelancers Day in November 2014, when the coalition government appointed David Morris as its first selfemployment ambassador. The Conservative MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale since 2010, Morris was self-employed for more than 25 years, first as a musician and later as the owner of a chain of hairdressing salons. The focus on self-employment sharpened further just after the general election, when the House of Commons Library published a briefing on key issues facing members of the new parliament including a section on “the self-employment boom.” Then, on 1st July, the government announced a review of self-employment in the UK to be carried out by Julie Deane, founder and Chief Executive of The Cambridge Satchel Company.

The government said the Deane Review, which appeared in February, would “look at what can be done to provide more security and peace of mind, for example, when juggling self-employment and having a family, buying a home or saving for retirement.” For a group that was long ignored by politicians of all parties, but now numbers around 4.6m workers, this was a change of tune.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s June issue: Bronwen Maddox lays out the case for Britain to stay in Europe—the position taken by the magazine. Mikhail Gorbachev explains his hopes for Russia, suggesting that the claim democracy is bad for Russia is “balderdash.” Rachel Sylvester looks at the Conservative Party and explores what might happen to the Tories after the EU referendum. Also in this issue: Nicholas Shaxson and Alex Cobham unpick the world of hidden money and what Britain can do about tax havens. Neil Kinnock argues that Labour isn’t making progress under Jeremy Corbyn and Jason Burke examines Islamic State and the networks that underpin their attacks. Plus Stephen Bayley asks was BritArt any good?