Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Employment transformation

After George Osborne's recent enthusiasm for full employment there has been a lot around in the media about getting people into jobs, helping people find an employer and the ways that employers can be encouraged to get more people on their payroll. I do think there's an element here of the way the gas companies reacted to the electric light by trying to invent a better gas mantle.

My problem with all this is that you hardly ever hear anything about providing support to people to become self-employed. And yet, as dinosaur industries bite the dust, we can expect that more and more of us are likely to be self-employed. And I think that's a good thing. Having spent about half my working life with a large company and half self-employed there is no comparison. Being your own boss is wonderful, with the upside far outweighing the negatives.

So it's fine to have all this stuff, but why don't newly self-employed people get a national insurance holiday, like the one being offered for newly employed people? Why isn't there as much effort going into helping people set up their own businesses as there is in apprenticeships and encouragement to take on staff? The fact is that micro businesses are an extremely important part of the economy, but governments of all political colours are welded to the old idea of working for large companies as an employee being the only significant model.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not falling for the easy trap of 'I have got on okay for 20 years self-employed, so why can't everyone do it?' I know it's not for everyone. Some just want to clock in for a job, do the work and clock off. And there still will remain plenty of companies that need to be big, with lots of employees. But a sizeable part of the workforce is self employed, or runs their own extremely small companies - and that part could and should grow considerably.

Self employment and startups really are by far the best solution when a dinosaur industry dies out. Yet despite whatever weasel words there may be from the government (and from Labour), the fact is that politicians just don't get it. Our whole system (especially the tax system) is set up to support and reinforce the old way of working. It's time for a radical redesign, and to really give help to those who want to earn money by their own efforts. How about it, Mr Osborne?

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