Self-employed people contribute vast sums to our nation's coffers: £21bn every year to be precise. Yet government largely ignores this sector, focussing on existing small firms and the job opportunities they can provide. The Federation of Small Businesses' (FSB) new report Self Employment - Stimulating economic growth means to change all that. The report recommends a number of ways that government can nurture stability, cultivate economic growth and bring about renewed confidence by tweaking the way that the 'self-employed' status is treated in the UK.
A key point in the FSB's strategy involves the extension of the New Enterprise Allowance scheme (the weekly allowance for people unemployed for more than six months who wish to start their own business), and the creation of a 'self-employment register', a new initiative that would substantially lessen the administrative burden on self-employed workers. This register would also open up opportunities for government to target investment and support at this entrepreneurial sector.
John Walker, chairman of the FSB, says: "The public sector cuts are really starting to bite and unemployment looks set to rise even higher. The Government has so far concentrated on creating employment opportunities, but they also need to help nurture an environment of entrepreneurialism. The Chancellor's Budget provides the perfect opportunity for the Government to put a spotlight on self-employment and help break down the barriers to entrepreneurship.
"By extending the New Enterprise Allowance scheme and establishing the right to decide to be self-employed, the Government will send the right message to future entrepreneurs and allow self-employment to thrive. The self-employed people of today will be the wealth generators and job creators of tomorrow."
The timing of this report could not be more apt: the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released the latest figures for unemployment this week. It's not happy reading: At the end of January, the total amount of unemployed people rose by 27,000 to 2.53 million. And that's not all; the youth sector (aged 18 - 24 and not in tertiary education) has hit a high of 20.6%. These record levels of youth unemployment have been addressed by the FBS in its report, which calls for more business training in schools and for the inclusion of entrepreneurship into career advice options for school-leavers.
Here is a six-point overview of the FSB's proposed changes:
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