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Surge in self-employed workers

The UK is becoming the "self-employment capital" of Western Europe after an increase in the number of people working for themselves, according to a new report.

The IPPR think tank said the country had caught up with the European Union average of 14% of workers who are self-employed.

The number has increased by 8% over the past year, faster than in any other Western European country, said the report.

Spencer Thompson, IPPR senior economic analyst, said: "Around 2,000 people a month are moving off benefits into their own business. The Government's response to the rise in self-employment has been to praise the UK's entrepreneurial zeal, while increasingly promoting self-employment as an option to job-seekers.

"Some have seen it as a negative development, having legitimate concerns whether a lot of the new self-employed are actually employees by another name.

"The self-employed come in many shapes and sizes. Some are entrepreneurs, driven by high-growth ambitions, innovation and disruptive business models, but many are sole-traders bands simply looking to get by or small businesses happy to stay at their current level.

"Many older self-employed workers are simply working longer, due to a combination of rises in the pension age and recession-induced falls in the value of wealth stored up for retirement."

The report was published ahead of the latest unemployment figures tomorrow.

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