Self-employment numbers rise 22% in a twelve month period leading to fears of growing bogus self-employment
Northern Ireland unemployment rate falls to 5.5% but remains above UK and pre-crash levels
October 19th: Unite Regional Secretary for Ireland, Jimmy Kelly, welcomed headline figures showing a reduction in the number unemployed in Northern Ireland but argued more detailed analysis showed that the growth in employment was largely in precarious working:
“Today’s statistics show a welcome reduction in the overall unemployment rate in Northern Ireland to 5.5% but there’s no room for complacency or self-congratulation as this figure remains above the UK average (4.9%) and is higher than the unemployment prior to the 2008 crash when the rate was 3.6%.
“What’s more concerning is that a more detailed analysis of the figures confirms growth in total employment over the last year was concentrated in precarious forms of work. In the last twelve months, the total number working here rose by 30,000 to 844,000 but only 20% or 6,000 of that increase was in standard employment.
“In the same period the numbers categorised as self-employed rose by a staggering 22%, or by 23,000, to 129,000. There is a very real fear that much of this increase is in bogus self-employment arrangements, where unscrupulous bosses force workers to declare as external contractors so that they can avoid minimum wage laws, paying employers’ national insurance contributions, making pension provisions or providing holiday pay. Self-employed workers enjoy few of the rights and protections afforded to those holding an employment contract.
“The statistics also expose the rise in part-time and temporary working. Over the last year, the numbers working on temporary contracts rose by 14%, or by 6,000, to 49,000, while those working part-time rose 8%, or by 16,000, to 208,000.
“Unfortunately, the NI Executive appears intent on pursuing policies which encourage a race-to-the-bottom, of securing work at any cost even if it is highly precarious. Workers can’t plan for a future living on part-time, temporary or zero-hours jobs and have no security or ability to negotiate improvements while they work in bogus self-employment.
“Instead of pursuing a race-to-the-bottom where money for apprenticeships, training and education is being slashed to pay for corporate tax breaks, we need to see an active industrial policy grounded on investment for high-value added growth”, Mr Kelly concluded.