Belfast Telegraph

Why more NI women are now freelance

By Richard Ramsey

UK self-employment has increased at double the rate of the Republic of Ireland over the last year and is up 10%. But of the three economies, Northern Ireland has experienced the sharpest rise in self-employment by quite some margin. Almost one in seven of all people engaged in work class themselves as self-employed.

Self-employment in Northern Ireland increased by one fifth, or 21,000, in just 12 months, and is back above pre-recession levels. Furthermore, at 125,000 for quarter one 2014, Northern Ireland's current self-employment levels remains within 2% (2,000) of its record high.

Meanwhile the number of people in employment (either as employees, self-employment or on government programmes) increased by 18,000 between quarter 2013 and quarter 2014. Therefore all of this increase, as opposed to just over 50% for the UK, was due to self-employment.

Whilst the surge in UK self-employment has not exhibited any unique gender differences, within Northern Ireland, the rise in self-employment has been more marked with females than males.

The former category has increased by 45% over the last year – almost four times the rate of males (12%). The latter's gains are concentrated in the male-dominated sectors such as agriculture and construction.

One third of Northern Ireland's increase in self-employment (+7,000) was due to the construction sector which accounts for 22% of total self-employment. Meanwhile female self-employment, which has never been higher, is more prevalent within the services industries – of which the craft sector is part.

The growth of females in self-employment can be attributed at least in part to the cost of living crisis, as in many cases women who used to look after the family have gone into self-employment out of necessity.

Richard Ramsey is chief economist, Ulster Bank

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