We’ve discussed the current boom in self-employment before. However it’s recently been revealed by the ONS  more than 70% of the increase over the last 5 years is due to people over 50 becoming self-employed. Readers of our blog may not be surprised.

The recent boom in employment has been much debated. Since 2008, official figures show more than half a million more people are in work. But what kind of work? The reality seems to be that the numbers of people in full time employment has actually gone down by nearly 150,000. This has been offset by a sharp increase in the number of part-time workers and more than half a million people joining the ranks of the self-employed, the vast majority of whom are over 50.

Figures show the older jobless population spend longer looking for work. So could this rise in older entrepreneurs be borne out of necessity? That may explain part of the rise since it’s widely believed employment-related age-discrimination is still widespread. It’s also true desperation can force people to apply for jobs they are over-qualified or under-qualified for, keeping them out of work longer.

However it also seems to be the case self-employment is especially attractive to the over-50s.  It’s not usual for older people to reach a stage in life when they’d prefer to work for themselves. Corporate structures tend to be geared to younger people, and some simply want more balance in their life. It’s also true older knowledge workers can, in some sectors, command a premium as consultants.

Self-employment can also give older workers more security in the absence of alternatives. That’s the view of some advisors working to support older entrepreneurs. The Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise (PRIME), a counter point to the Prince’s Trust, provides business advice and mentoring to older people. PRIME believes older workers have skills and experience that could benefit the economy. PRIME also says more opportunities should be available whether its self-employment or full-time jobs and few would argue with that.

It’s true we’re living longer. 25 years ago it may have seemed unusual for someone to start a business in their fifties, but not anymore.  Regardless of the reason for becoming self-employed, it can turn out to be one of the best decisions someone makes. At any age, it’s not for everyone, but it can be the time of your life.