ONS figures on homeworking trends

ONS figures on homeworking trends

The Live/Work Network – a slightly cumbersome title: the organisation seeks to promote home-based businesses in the UK – has produced its second analysis of ONS data to reveal the extent and nature of homeworking in the UK.

There are now some 3.8m homeworkers in the UK – and, out of a total workforce in excess of 29.2m people, that's more than one in every eight of us (it's just over 13%). In contrast, in 2001, we were 3.1m out of a total of 27.8m – some 11.1%. So, a growth of two percentage points in ten years: not a meteoric growth, but a quite substantial one all the same.

Live/Work comments that the data shows that some 66% of homeworkers are male – an interesting statistic in that it challenges, as Live/Work argues, the 'widely held stereotype that homeworking is particularly relevant to women, because it enables them to juggle home and work commitments.' Here at Prospect, we would of course not engage in such stereotyping. But the strong bias in the figures towards male homeworkers – when, in contrast, those who commute are evenly divided between men and women – is a useful figure to bear in mind.

What really caught my eye, however, was Live/Work's presentation of the data to show how many homeworkers are self-employed (this is, of course, the organisation's mission): in 2011, some 63% of the overall total worked from home and were self-employed. Self-employed people who work from home – and some Prospect members will be in this category – are still homeworkers: but they are a fairly specific sub-set, and with very different needs and requirements as regards, for example, their trade union membership. Excepting the self-employed from the figures gives a net increase in homeworkers who are not self-employed – i.e. those who are instead employees – of less than 210,000 over the period between 2001 and 2011. An increase, certainly, but one of a much lesser order. The 1.4m homeworkers who appear to have an employer (i.e. who are not self-employed) represents less than 6% of the total number of people who are in employment but who are not self-employed.

That, too, is an important statistic to bear in mind – not least with regard to the size of the task facing government departments in facilitating flexible working arrangements to cope with the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Interestingly, those Prospect members who are self-employed may find something useful on the Live/Work Network website – specifically, the promotion of work hubs (a network of workspaces providing an office when needed and – as importantly – the opportunity to network with other homeworkers).