…very different from what it was. Katie in her last posting referred to the proposal to institute a 21 hour work week which would spread existing employment further and enable a better life blend for people. That is one possibility. There are many more and all relate to the notion that the Industrial Era of the past 150 years is disappearing before our eyes. Seth Godin likes to say that we are in for a permanent recession. By which he means that the age of ‘jobs’ as we understood them is over. Yet you would not think so if you listened to most politicians and indeed many commentators on the current situation. Last week the CIPD came out with what I see as a totally outdated interpretation of the latest employment statistics.
They claim that the rise in self-employment since the start of the recession is mostly due to part-time “odd-jobbers” who are desperate to avoid unemployment. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that self-employment hit a record high of 4.14 million in autumn 2011, 8% higher than in spring 2008. Over the same period, there was a 3% fall in the number of people in work.
According to the CIPD’s Work Audit Report, those who have turned to self-employment since 2008 are unlike self-employed workers as a whole in terms of gender, hours worked, occupation and sector of employment. The report found that nine-tenths (89%) of the net rise in self-employment was driven by people who worked less than 30 hours per week, compared with two-thirds of the self-employed population as a whole.
Dr John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the CIPD, says that the rise in self-employed workers does not suggest a surge in entrepreneurship, with more than 20% of the rise accounted for by people in unskilled occupations.
“The typical self-employed person in Britain today remains a skilled tradesman, manager or professional working long hours on the job, but, since the start of the recession, the ranks of the self-employed have been swelled by people from a much wider array of backgrounds and occupations, including many ‘handymen’ without skills, picking up whatever bits and pieces of work are available,” Philpott commented.
“It’s good that these self-employed ‘odd-jobbers’ are helping to keep a lid on unemployment in a very weak labour market but their emergence hardly suggests a surge in genuine entrepreneurial zeal.”
He added that, while some of these newly self-employed may make a long-term commitment to being their own boss, it is likely that most would take a job with an employer if they could find one.
I would suggest that another explanation is that more people are experimenting with work life blend arrangements. Many of us are beginning to say that we would be happy to revert to the standard of living that we had in the 90’s if that would give us a more meaningful work and life blend. Although portfolio careers are not for everyone they embody a desire for a work life that is very different from that followed by our parents. We demand meaning, purpose, creativity, fun, working with like minded people, and choosing to be the architects of our own futures.