More and more reporting is highlighting the move to self-employment across countries that have similar laws, politics and social structure to Australia. At the same time there are observations about the demise of the “corporation” as we’ve come to know it.
In the UK and US the 2008 to 2012 recession forced people to fend for themselves as large corporations downsized aggressively. One American observer, James Altucher, says bluntly that “zero sectors in the economy are moving towards full-time workers. People are going to have to learn the skills to have multiple streams of income” – by working for themselves.
In an interview in The Sydney Morning Herald he said that “corporatism,” the model of large companies, continues to decline as “capitalism flourishes”. Now to many people “capitalism” is a very emotive word, usually spoken through cigar smoke or in wood panelled boardrooms. Isn’t it the enemy of the working man and woman?
In the UK, two pieces of research – one from a company called everreach and another from the UK government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS – the equivalent to our Australian Bureau of Statistics) – highlight just what the working man and woman are doing with themselves as they are forced to leave full-time work with corporations.
The formal research from government highlighted that in the UK, two-thirds of the 1.1 million jobs created since 2008 are self-employed. It highlighted that these newly self-employed are generally older, work longer hours and are paid less than their peers in corporations. Doesn’t sound like a fair exchange at first blush, nor the traditional picture of capitalism, but we’ll come back to that.
The second one from call forwarding company everreach, which focuses on the small and medium business sector, looked to rank which place in the UK has the highest incidence of self-employed workers. Its research highlighted that one fifth of the city of Winchester’s 57,200 workers are sole traders, followed by St Albans at 18% and Brighton at 17.9%. One in five people in each city working for themselves! It went on to say that the UK was now the self-employment capital of Europe. It claimed an even higher ratio of new job creation, with two-fifths of jobs created since 2010 being among those working for themselves.
Back to capitalism and working hours. Well firstly I agree and can empathise with everything that has been said by the ONS, everreach and James Altucher. I stepped down from full-time work a year ago and set up a new small company. I am 50, so I guess I’m older. I earn less than I used to and from 5pm last Thursday to 5pm this Thursday I worked 7 days for an average of 13 hours each day. And I am loving it!
So I’m a capitalist as I own the company which employees me: employee number 001. I also earn a lot less, worked longer hours last week and love it. Why?
Well when I am working I am truly working. Hard to deadlines. And when I’m not, I’m not. I don’t get to choose when I do and don’t work, my clients do, so I can’t lump all my work together on any given days. But I do get to weave exercise, motorbike rides, hiking or paddling into parts of the week that used to be taken up by full-time work. And the work is always varied. Oh and commuting? I used to spend a minimum of 12 hours every week in a car or a cab in rush hour traffic. Now it’s less than four and almost always out of rush hour. However, I work weekends and evenings when they need to be used.
I am writing this not to tell you how extraordinary and lucky I am, but for quite the opposite. I am now more ordinary than most full-time employees and working for yourself is now just a normal way to earn a living in Australia in 2014.
Kevin Moore is a retail expert and the chairman of Crossmark Asia Pacific Holdings.