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Harnessing Britain's Entrepreneurial Spirit

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This month's Office of National Statistics employment figures have offered positive, albeit tentative, signs of growth in the British labour market. While overall unemployment fell by only 7,000, if one looks more closely at the figures they potentially reveal a booming entrepreneurial spirit in Britain.

In the three months to July 2012, the number of self-employed people increased by 52,000 to 4.22 million workers - the highest figure ever recorded in the UK. This rise in self-employment has seemingly offset what otherwise would have been an increase in the number of people unemployed in the UK. Legal & General's Job Security Index confirms that there is a strong underlying sense of self-belief and self-reliance among Brits, with almost three in ten (28%) saying that they would consider starting their own business if they were to lose their current job.

Attitudes towards work and life are changing and it's encouraging to see the way that a growing percentage of the population are taking the opportunity to make a change and improve their employment prospects. Eric Schmidt, Google's Executive Chairman, lambasted Britain earlier this year for failing to maintain our once famed innovative spirit, so it is great to see such evidence to the contrary. There has certainly been a rise in the many start-ups, innovative ventures and more traditional forms of self-employment Brits are undertaking. Silicon Roundabout, in North East of the City of London has seen over 3,200 tech firms spring up since 2008 and has won international praise for spearheading the British technology drive. Companies that have now established bases in this area include the likes of Cisco, Intel and Vodafone, all on the back of the important initial efforts of the small scale creative enterprises and sole entrepreneurs.

In fact, as many as 32,000 of the jobs recently created in the UK, roughly a fifth of the 181,000 jobs created in the three months to May 2012 were as a result of people prepared to work on a self-employed basis. At the start of the year it was estimated that since 2008 the rise in self-employment in Britain had offset around 40% of employee job losses, a number that is likely to rise.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development has warned that it does not view the jump in self-employed as a resurgent enterprise culture, it takes a more cautious view.
Often projects, that begin as personal and small-scale endeavours, grow out of adverse economic conditions. Britain escaped the 1930s financial crisis thanks to a housing boom that allowed the construction sector to pave the road to recovery. We now face another housing shortage, at a time when jobs in construction are threatened. Maybe this time the saviour will be the businesses set-up by those self-employed entrepreneurs.

For most Brits, being self-employed is not about starting the next multi-billion pound transnational corporation, but rather providing for themselves and their family. The fact that, as Legal & General's Job Security Index suggests, people are regaining confidence is really welcome news. This is not constrained to self-employment. The research also found that three-quarters of British workers are confident that their job is secure. The economy may not be growing at the moment, but at least workers don't feel immediately threatened.

This resilient British spirit is just the base we need to build our economy. Workers' confidence should in turn stimulate greater economic opportunities. So harnessing the sense of belief held by those with the confidence to go it alone, and translating it into the catalyst for job creation across the market - from our traditional sectors such as manufacturing, to contemporary industries, such as digital and technology. Could this be the turning point from which we could all benefit from in the future? Time

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