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Contractor Insights Survey - Who are the UK’s typical contractors?

Paystream News

Kerry Hull

Friday 24th Apr, 2015

When the word 'contractor' comes to mind, individuals immediately refer to the typical stereotype of a middle-aged man in paint-splattered jeans, wearing a hard hat. This typecast may be true in some instances, but is definitely not the norm.

Contractor's demographics vary greatly, they are both male and female and bring a whole array of skill sets to the table.

Our Contractor Insights Survey, a survey involving 1,600 temporary workers throughout the UK, looks into contractor's feelings about everything from their relationships with agencies to their optimism surrounding the UK's jobs market.

The findings from our survey have been assembled together to provide key insights into who exactly the typical UK contractor is.


Most assume that contracting is a male dominated market, however 34% of our survey's respondents were in fact female, which highlights the growing number of females choosing to work in this way.

This discovery is supported with government figures, which pinpoint that females make up around one-third of the UK's freelance workforce.

Managing Director at PayStream, Paul Malley, highlights his opinion on the increase of females within the sector. "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."


Alongside the typical male stereotype, contractors are also perceived to be middle-aged. While the majority are aged between 25 to 54, 7% of respondents are in fact aged 18 to 24, indicating a growing proportion of individuals opting to work on a contract basis earlier on in life.

On the flip side, our survey also revealed that 2% of respondents were aged 65 and over, highlighting that not all individuals who reach retirement age fully leave work. Instead this portion of workers opt to keep their foot in the door by taking on contractor roles, either for financial benefits or to uphold their skills sets. This portion of workers has nearly doubled in five years alone.

In total, the majority of those surveyed were aged 45 to 54 (27%), while 25% were aged between 35 and 44, and 24% between the ages of 25 to 34.


Our survey also delved further into the industry sectors which contractors were operating in, which indicated that contracting was far more popular in the IT and Engineering industries than in fields such as HR and Legal.

It was of no surprise that the service contractors opted for was dependent on the industry they operated in.

For instance, our survey results indicated that individuals who specialised in IT, Accountancy and Engineering were more likely to operate as a limited company. The reason being that contractors working in these industries are more to fall outside IR35, due to the in which they work.

On the other hand, contractors operating in the Education, Health and Social Care industries were more inclined to work through and umbrella company, again due falling inside IR35 or due to personal preference.


What does the future have in store for contractors?

Managing Director at PayStream, Paul Malley, stated "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 reinforced with our survey findings, which indicate that 72% of respondents rate good pay as the most crucial factor when seeking their next role.

Furthermore, 37% of our survey's respondents claimed they typically waited around 2 to 4 weeks before their contract was due to end before seeking their next role. This finding gives recruiters a clearer picture of when they should look to make contact with contractors they have previously placed when their contract is due to end. Doing this will give recruiters the upper hand when placing them for their new role.

If you'd like to know more insights from our Contractor Insights Survey please get in touch with our Sales Director Ashley Olliver at today!

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