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Who exactly are the UK's contractors?

While this stereotype may be true in some instances, it is certainly not the norm.

Contractors come in all shapes and sizes.  They are both male and female and have a whole range of specialist skills.

PayStream have recently carried out a survey involving 1,600 temporary workers throughout the UK to find out how they felt about everything from their relationships with their recruitment agencies to their confidence regarding the country's jobs market.

These findings have been compiled into a Contractor Insights Survey, which reveals some incredibly important insights into exactly who they are.

Here, PayStream analyse the survey's results in a little more detail to look at who the typical UK contractor actually is.


Although stereotypically, many may think that the vast majority of contractors are male, 34 per cent of survey respondents were female, which shows that a growing number of women are opting to work in this way.

This finding is in line with government statistics indicating that females make up around one-third of the UK's self-employed workforce.

Paul Malley, Managing Director at PayStream explains why he feels that there has been an increase in females within the sector.  & lsquo;More women are choosing to work for themselves due to the increased flexibility that freelancing can bring.  It allows them to determine their own hours and pay rates, which in turn can give them a greater work-life balance.’


Contractors aren't all middle-aged either. While the majority are aged between 25 and 54, 7 per cent of respondents were aged 18 to 24, showing that a significant proportion of young people are choosing to work on a contract basis after leaving school, college or university.

2 per cent were aged 65 or over, indicating that some older people are deciding not to opt for full retirement, but instead are keeping their foot in the door of the world of work by taking on shorter-term roles, possibly for financial reasons, or to help them to maintain their skills. What's more, this figure has more than doubled in the past five years.

The majority of the respondents to the PayStream survey were aged 45 to 54 (27 per cent), while 25 per cent were aged between 35 and 44, and 24 per cent fell into the 25 to 34 age bracket.


The PayStream survey also collated the sectors which contractors were operating in, which showed that this way of working was significantly more popular in the Engineering and IT industries than it was in fields such as HR and Legal.

Unsurprisingly, the survey found that contractors were more likely to opt for either the limited company or umbrella service dependent on the industry they worked in.  

For example, the survey results showed that those specialising in the Engineering, IT and Accountancy sectors were most likely to work as limited company contractors.  This is because contractors working in these sectors are more likely to pass an IR35 test based on the way they work.  

On the flip side temporary workers in the Education and Health and Social Care industries tended to favour working through an umbrella company and this is again due to either preference or their IR35 status.


So what are contractor’s plans for the future?

Paul Malley, Managing Director at PayStream said “Our survey findings support the feeling that optimism is high in the contractor community at the moment with 65 per cent of contractors believing that it will be 'easy' to secure their next contract”. 

This optimism is further supported with 72 per cent of respondents advising that they would be on the lookout for a good pay rate as the most important factor in their next role.

What's more, 37 per cent of respondents said they usually waited until two to four weeks before their contracts came to an end before looking for their next role - information that should give recruiters an idea of when they should be making contact with contractors they have placed whose contract is coming to an end, to ensure they are at the front of the queue for placing them in that next contract role.


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