The number of self-employed workers in the UK is estimated to have passed the five-million milestone, official statistics show.

The Office for National Statistics' first labour market survey of the new decade showed the figure increased from 4.96m in December 2019.

Self-employment has been on the up since 2001 and they now account for 15.2% of all people in work - 145,000 higher than this time last year.

The stronger-than-expected recovery in the three months to November eases pressure on the Bank of England to cut interest rates on 30 January.

Self-employment can take many forms, including entrepreneurs and freelancers, gig economy workers or contractors.

It excludes, however, zero-hours workers, who have the same employment rights as regular employees.

The Government made a manifesto pledge to conduct a review into improving support for the growing numbers of self-employed.

That could include extending auto-enrolment to the self-employed, who currently miss out on workplace pensions from which employees benefit.

Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon, said:

"These figures mark a milestone as the self-employed population is equivalent to the size of Wales and Northern Ireland combined.

"The rise in the self-employed brings with it significant challenges particularly in terms of saving for retirement.

"The Government needs to level-up pension provision for these workers who are excluded from auto-enrolment to make sure they are saving enough money for the quality of life they aspire to in retirement."

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