This article was last updated in April 2014 (see bottom for an estimate of total numbers).
How many contractors are there in the UK?
When working on Contract Eye and previous contractor news sites over the past decade, we’re probably asked this question more than any other.
Now, thanks to research carried out by the Small Business Research Centre at Kingston University, we have a rough idea of how many freelancers there may be in the country.
The study, commissioned by the Professional Contractors Group, revealed that there are now 1.4 million freelancers in the UK – representing a 14% growth over the past 10 years.
University experts used data from the Labour Force Survey and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform’s (BERR) statistics to reveal the size and attributes of the UK freelance sector.
Key points from the study
- 1.4 million freelancers in the UK
- 62% of freelancers are male, 38% are female
- 14% growth in freelancer numbers since 1998
- 58% are working “full time” as freelancers, 42% are “part time”
- Over 160,000 freelance in addition to a main job
- Male freelancers dominate IT, Mangement, and Engineering roles
- Translation services, proof-reading and book publishing appear to be female-dominated
John Brazier, MD of the PCG said that his organisation was proud to have been part of the first serious study into the UK’s freelancer workforce, when little of substance was known about the rapidly growing industry beforehand.
So, how many IT Contractors are there?
It is worth bearing in mind that although the headline figure from the survey is high, most IT contractors do not consider themselves to be ‘freelancers’ at all. From our experience of the contracting industry since 1998, we’d estimate that the total number of IT contractors is likely to be in the low hundreds of thousands.
We’ve updated this article in early 2014 thanks to a helpful email from the PCG team who confirmed to us that there are were a total of 120,549 IT/telecoms contractors in 2013, which represents about 14% of all those working in IT/telecoms overall.