Survey shows rise in agency, contracting and freelance work

A REC survey shows the number of people doing contracting, agency work and freelacing is on the rise.

More people are rejecting the traditional 9-5 working pattern in favour of greater flexibility, according to research from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, which reports a rise in temporary agency work, contracting and freelancing.

It says 39% of workers have done temporary agency work, contracting or freelancing at some point in their careers – up from 36% in 2014. 28% of temporary agency workers, contractors and freelancers choose this way of working because they want flexible hours. 36% choose it because they want to get on the job ladder quickly.

The survey shows two thirds (68 per cent) of people who have worked as a flexible worker are now in a permanent role – up 12% from 2014. The research also found that flexible work is a part of people’s lives in all parts of society. A similar proportion of people in the ABC1 and C2DE social grades have worked as temporary agency workers (28% and 26% respectively).

The survey results show the gender balance among people who have done temporary agency work is nearly even (52% female vs 48% male). However, there is a wider difference among contractors and freelancers where men are the majority (63%).

Women are more likely to choose flexible work in order to look after children (13% of women vs just 4% of men) and to work more flexible hours (33% of women vs 24% of men).

The survey also showed a demand for flexibility across the age spectrum. One in four (25%) 18-24 year olds (Gen Z) have worked as either a temporary agency worker, contractor or freelancer. 41% of them – up from 24% in 2014 – say they did this in order to work flexible hours so they could study or pursue hobbies, for example. This compares to 25% of 45-54 year olds. For millennials (25-34 year olds), the chance to gain experience is a significant motivator. 25% choose flexible work for this reason. This compares to just 10% of over-45s.  Moreover, of the 20% of people aged over 65 who have worked as a contractor or freelancer in their life, 16% did so in the last year alone. For older people, working flexible hours, for example, to wind down to retirement, is a big reason (12%) as is the ability to not work for just one company (18%).

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, said:  “For too long, the political debate has treated flexible work as second class, and even locked flexible workers out of some forms of support – like the apprenticeship system. That has to change. We need to celebrate different forms of work that are essential to meeting workers’ needs at critical stages of many people’s lives.

“Policies designed for the past need to be redesigned – for instance, broadening the apprenticeship levy would mean even more people can get training while working flexibly to enhance their careers and reduce skills shortages.”




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