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Data needed on self-employment

The STUC's Stephen Boyd specialises in close qualitative analysis of economic data, and is critical - as are many others - of the calibre and timeliness of statistical output in Scotland.

In his recent blog on the STUC's Better Way site, he reserves judgment on the great self-employment uptick.

He wrote: "Self-employment is particularly interesting because, given the lag in Scottish statistics, we don't yet know if the massive increase in self-employment at UK level over the very recent period (for the UK as a whole: 183,000 or fully two-thirds of the new jobs reported yesterday were self-employed as were 52% of all new jobs created over the past year) is being replicated in Scotland.

"Recent trajectories suggest that despite the small fall in self-employment in the year to December 2013, it is entirely possible that Scotland may be on the verge of an increase as the more volatile Scottish series catches up with the UK."

Boyd, like other trade unionists and the Resolution Foundation, is wary of the rise in self-employment, perhaps seeing it not so much as the triumph of grass roots entrepreneurialism as an all-embracing euphemism for disorganised labour, under-employment, and off-the-radar poor pay and working conditions.

He wrote: "The increase in self-employment is a concern, for the post-recession cohort of self-employed are working fewer hours, earning less money, paying less tax and contributing significantly to the rising cost of in-work benefits. Again, it would be good to have some decent research (or at least some up-to-date figures) at a Scottish level."

Another important development hidden behind the numbers is what Boyd calls "the largely untold story … of the increasing number of older workers".

This seems to come at a cost in terms of youth unemployment which is slightly higher in Scotland than in the UK (20.6% v 20.1%) and decreasingly slightly more slowly.

Employment growth in older workers has been particularly pronounced over the past year with older women doing especially well.

"Of course this isn't all bad; it's good that older workers can remain in work if they want to. But the downside is undeniable: fewer jobs for young workers and many people forced to work longer than they would like to due to pension changes etc."

Boyd is calling for a Commission on the Older Workforce to determine why there are more silver jobs market surfers, and what their experience is like.

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Careers and Jobs

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