Unlike Ed Miliband, I won't sit around deriding improved employment figures. There are problems we must fix instead of running negative campaigns - for instance, ONS estimates suggest that the average (median) income of the self-employed has fallen by around 22% since 2008, at least in part because many of the self-employed are working fewer hours than they would like. As the economy improves in the years ahead, some may prefer to move back for the security of full-time employment - if so, they will take with them valuable experience of huge benefit to the organisations they join.
A Mori poll published in April asked 985 self-employed people whether or not they would rather be an employee. A majority of 79% responded that they would rather be self-employed, with only 16% preferring the employee option. The survey also found that the longer workers had been self-employed, the less likely they were to desire a different employment status.
People are choosing to start a business - it is not because they can't find a job. They don't want a job! Over half a million people took the step to start their own business in 2013; a UK record which looks likely to be beaten this year. Figures from ONS show three quarters of the increase in employment over the past quarter came from people employing themselves.
This sounds like a flippant statement but it's not meant to be. Leaving my job to go self employed, and leaving my husband to go it alone as a single parent, were both incredibly important and emotional times in my life. Times filled with fear, doubt, uncertainty, and plenty of tears. And on recent reflection I realised that I'd gone through many of the same thoughts and feelings during each of them.
Where are we now, and where are we going? Twenty or fifteen years ago we could rely on mainstream institutions to answer these questions for us. Westminster, Fleet Street, Big Business - they told us what the good life really meant, and how to live it. Yet fast forward to 2013 and these are no longer the bedrocks of society; their legitimacy sapping in the wake of perpetual scandals, their decline accelerated by the worst economic crash in a century.