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Latest ONS data has shown the first month-on-month rise in the number of self-employed workers since the pandemic started.

The number increased slightly from 4,313,000 in January to 4,331,000 in February, however, this figure was still 617,000 lower compared to the same time last year, which has led the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) to say that this data is ‘cause for cautious optimism’.

Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at IPSE, commented, “This first month-on-month increase in freelancer numbers in over a year is cause for cautious optimism. Although the year-on-year drop is testament to the drastic financial damage of the pandemic, the monthly increase – taken with our data on rising business performance – gives us hope that the freelance sector is on its way back.

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“Freelancers are the leading edge of the economy and have always played a key part in economic recovery. To fully unleash this potential, however, government must do more to support the sector. Many excluded freelancers are now struggling under enormous amounts of debt, and government should consider ways to relieve this. Meanwhile, the IR35 changes have left many contractors trying to navigate the near-unregulated world of umbrella companies: government must step in to support them and underpin the continued recovery of the sector.”

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