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UK employees more likely to freelance than Europeans

The shine of freelancing and self-employment is fading across Europe, according to a study from ADP, while the trend continues to attract UK workers looking for a more flexible approach to their professional lives. ADP’s annual Workforce View in Europe 2019 report has revealed an 11 percentage point drop in the number of workers actively considering the independent lifestyle since 2017 – down to just 15% this year. While the study has shown that interest in freelancing and self-employment continues amongst UK workers with 21% actively considering it, a figure that is only a one percentage point change on 2017. 

Despite Brexit and increased political uncertainty, numerous reports highlight that the British economy is thriving with UK wages rising at their fastest rate for a decade and employment at its highest since the 1970s. Many of the UK’s key industries continue to experience fast growth, particularly the tech sector which has reportedly seen a surge in foreign investment. ADP’s research suggests that employee confidence reflects such strength, with many workers feeling secure enough to opt for an independent professional life. 

ADP’s Workforce View, which surveyed over 10,000 employees throughout Europe, also highlighted a divergence between British and European attitudes towards ‘jobs for life’. Over a quarter (27%) of European employees expect to stay in their organisation for the rest of their working life while just 19% of UK employees said the same. The research also revealed that UK workers are the most likely to already be self-employed or working as a freelancer (5%), closely followed by Switzerland (4%) and France (4%). 

The last few years had previously seen employees shun ‘jobs for life’ and the 9‑to‑5 grind, as freelancing, self‑employment and ‘portfolio careers’ came to the fore. However, it appears the popularity of these alternative ways of working could be starting to decrease in Europe as the tide turns back towards more traditional career paths, while in contrast UK employees continue to explore more flexible ways of working.  

Jeff Phipps, Managing Director at ADP UK, commented on the findings:

“Freelancing can offer a fantastic way of life to certain professionals but, as with any career choice, it isn’t for everybody and it seems trends differ remarkably depending on the region. A huge number of employees, both in the UK and Europe, have chosen to follow the self-employed path over the last few years, attracted by freedom, flexibility and control over their destiny. However, many will also have struggled with the insecurity, isolation and significant administrative burden that can come with it, and ADP’s research reflects this. 

“Despite the challenges, it seems UK employees are continuing to search for greater autonomy and an improved work-life balance through pursuing a more flexible approach to work. Freelancing is a viable option for many, so British organisations must ensure they continue to compete and collaborate with what it has to offer.”

About the research: ‘The Workforce View in Europe 2019’ report explores the attitudes of employees toward the future of work. The research for ADP was carried out by independent market research agency Opinion Matters in October 2018. The sample consisted of 10,585 working adults in eight territories across Europe, including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. 

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