Concerns have been raised about the long-term economic security of many Yorkshire cities after new research showed many self-employed people in the region were unable to further their careers.
Since the economic crash in 2008 there has been a massive increase in the numbers of self-employed people in the region, with Bradford alone having seen a 43.8 per cent increase in those working for themselves.
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However much of the growth in these numbers has been in individuals working in low-skilled roles such as taxi driving, cleaning and construction.
Researchers at the Centre for Cities, who compiled the report, said that many of the low-skilled roles would become at risk of automation and that those working in these jobs were locked out of opportunities to access new training and skill upgrades.
It said that they are further disadvantaged by a tax system that prevents them from deducting many training costs, particularly training to acquire new skills, from income tax.
At the other end of the spectrum, York has seen the highest growth in high-skilled self-employment at 26 per cent, with Leeds and Sheffield the next places in line.
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Centre for Cities’ Chief Executive Andrew Carter said: “One in five jobs in cities is likely to be lost to automation and, though we are seeing a self-employment boom, too many people working for themselves in cities are in lower-skilled roles and lack access to the training they need to future proof their careers.
“The Government should act to make it easier for the growing numbers of self-employed people can develop their skills. The rules governing what types of courses self-employed people can deduct from income taxes should be relaxed and establish industry training boards that support people looking to upskill or retrain.
“Without measures such as these there is a very real risk that many self-employed people in Yorkshire’s cities will face an uncertain future.”
Higher skill needs
The Centre for Cities report acknowledges that cities need a mix of high and low-skilled employment and said that high-skilled service export work creates the strongest conditions for economic growth.
However it remains fact that it is more difficult for self-employed people to undertake training to ensure their skills remain relevant than employed people, who have access to employer training funds.
It has set out three proposals for the Government, specifically recommending that it:
- Allow self-employed people to deduct training costs from income taxes
- Bring together businesses to invest in training
- Strengthen local economies.
Data reveals divide
A statement from the Centre for Cities said: “Generally, people in Yorkshire’s economically weaker cities such as Doncaster, Barnsley and Hull are more likely to be in lower-skilled self-employment.
“Barnsley has the highest percentage of self-employed people working in low-skilled roles such as taxi drivers, cleaners and construction workers.
“On the other hand, and York has the highest-proportion of high-skilled self-employed people in Yorkshire.
“York is the only city in Yorkshire where the high-skilled self-employment rate exceeds the national urban average.”
People relying on self-employment as their only source of income are more exposed to income shocks or changes in the local economy.