Millions of British workers plan a ‘safety net' business in the coming year

Here’s why

A new study by AXA suggests that the massive shift towards self-employment seen in the UK is set to accelerate in the next twelve months. One explanation offered is that many seek a safety net as they feel their current employment is insecure. And people working in corporate or professional roles are most likely to feel exposed rather than lower income workers.

One in ten (11 per cent) of British people intend starting their own business in the next twelve months, according to a survey of 9,000 UK residents by AXA Business Insurance. This equates to 3.5 million people potentially venturing into self-employment.

The study found that few are idle dreamers: 87 per cent of respondents could cite significant steps already taken to start their business (applying for finance, taking qualifications or developing a website). Forty per cent are developing client relationships to the extent they already have projects underway. 

If even half of these intentions are borne out in 2017, this would mean the UK’s shift towards self-employment is more radical than previously thought. Government figures already show three record breaking years in row for people starting businesses2, and AXA predicts an even steeper acceleration in years to come.

Safety nets sought as Brexit looms?

Given the economic and political uncertainty born of Brexit, the findings beg the question why so many people would risk starting up now. One answer may lie in a feeling that their current employment, ‘working for the man’, is unstable, subject to redundancy, relocation or disruption.

Four in ten of these budding entrepreneurs say their current job is unlikely to last beyond 2021: one in ten say it may not last the year out, and an equal number say they don’t feel secure from one month to the next. 

Defying expectation, the most insecure were not in low-income or ‘zero hours’ jobs, but often in middle management or corporate roles. Forty five per cent of those who do not see their job lasting beyond 2021 were in such roles (titles including ‘Chief Financial director’, ‘CEO’, ‘Senior Marketing Manager’, HR Partner’). 

Brexit was top of mind when respondents were asked why they felt the job market was insecure. It was cited by a sizeable 27 per cent. Related to this, a further 20 per cent quoted ‘current Government policy’ as a reason to feel insecure, while a quarter named poor management culture in their company and just seven per cent felt under threat from automation.

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