Do freelancers and contractors hold the key to the future of work?

Words, hubbul

The consistent and relentless growth of freelancing and contracting around the world in recent years suggests that our way of working is playing a bigger, more influential role in business and society. And given that the UK’s independent workforce now contributes £109bn to the UK economy each year, it’s fair to say independent professionals are a firm foundation in the future of the work.

But can we go further than that, and make the claim that freelancers and contractors aren’t simply an important cog in the future of work, but the main component? 25% growth in UK freelancers and contractors in the past 5 years, suggests we aren’t far off. 

Temporary hiring is on the rise again, with 63% of senior HR professionals confident that demand for freelancers and contractors will continue to increase over the next two years. The need for expert freelancers ready to fill growing and worrying skills gaps across numerous industries has become has become regular reading.

As many as 48% of UK employers expect growing candidate shortages over the course of 2017,  simply strengthening the case for the growth of temporary hiring, and the need for freelance talent at short notice. 

Self-employment now makes up 15% of the entire UK workforce, as we actively go in search of better work life balance, freedom and flexibility and earning potential – the top considerations for the new wave of talent – the millennial.

“When you consider that millennials are expected to account for a staggering 75% of the global workforce by 2030, it’s hardly surprising that HR managers expect non-permanent hiring to increase substantially over the next few years,” explained Laurie Padua, Director of Technology and Operations Consultant at Alexander Mann Solutions.

“The generation currently entering the workforce are renowned for the emphasis they place on flexibility, and there is little doubt amongst the HR community that their preferences will continue to shape changes in the nature of the workplace.”

The gig economy is on track to overtake the number of people working in the public sector before long – reflecting the fast pace of change. To top it off, self-employment makes up the fastest growing sector of the European labour market – no mean feat when you consider than this particular group of workers have often been labelled ‘vulnerable’, and tarred with unfair stereotypes in recent years.

Fortunately, that's history now of course, as freelancers and contractors have quickly become the go-to for businesses of all sizes – regardless of whether it’s for growth purposes, or simply an urgent need for trusted and expert talent at short notice.

And KPMG’s UK HR Director, Kate Holt, echoed these exact thoughts.

“Few organisations need the battalions of conventional, permanent employees they have been used to. And that’s where portfolio workers come into their own. In particular they allow an organisation to switch their workforce costs on and off easily and more flexibly, in line with demand for their services.”

Put simply, millions of us are already or looking to take control of our lives and careers by working for ourselves, while more businesses than ever now truly understanding and reap the benefits of engaging with temporary workers as and when they need.

Throw in the forever growing number of opportunities for remote, flexible and anytime, anywhere working that technology has and will continue to offer, and there is only one conclusion: this way of working isn’t just a short-term fad or the new way of working, it’s quite clearly the future way of working too. 

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