What is driving UK workers to seek a second income?

Over a million people now have second jobs despite nearly two million people being unemployed

What is driving UK workers to seek a second income?

According to the recent Labour Force Survey, the number of UK workers taking a second job has risen substantially: there are now around 1.2m people working two jobs in the UK. It would be right to assume that many have been forced to take on secondary employment to meet the ever increasing living costs and lack of wage growth over the years. However, many are venturing out into secondary employment as a means of exploring entrepreneurial pursuits. Websites like Etsy and Big Cartel are giving crafty characters the opportunity to sell their intricate and individual designs while People Per Hour and HourlyNerd are offering skilled souls the chance to freelance in their spare time.

Whether second jobs are a way of surviving or a build up to a career change, the number of us working second jobs is only headed one way. Those working more hours just to support themselves is an issue that needs to be explored by the government and businesses alike, perhaps tax relief for the lowest earners or the introduction of a penalty for employers not paying the living wage. In the meantime, is there a danger the UK could become a nation of overworkers?


People want a new challenge,” Darren Fell, managing director of Crunch Accounting

The number of individuals with second jobs and the increase in self-employment are interconnected. Many of those taking second jobs are working for themselves, either with end clients directly or through platforms like People Per Hour or Uber that give them access to large pools of clients. Although there are undoubtedly some people having to take on second jobs to make ends meet, research into the UK’s workforce has actually shown that the majority undertaking self-employed activities do so because they want a new challenge, more control over their working lives, or to break away from the monotony of the nine-to-five.

This change has been referred to as ‘the gig economy’, or ‘portfolio careers’ – the next generation of workers don’t expect a job for life, they expect to jump from job-to-job. The latest figures from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor show the number of those taking on extra work through self-employment do so for positive reasons.

It is also becoming more common for companies to hire freelancers, as it’s seen to be more cost effective, particularly for small businesses that only need people on a project-by-project basis. This opens more doors for those who wish to take second jobs and is beneficial for the market as a whole. We predict this trend to continue and expect company structures and processes to evolve as a result.


Putting all your eggs in one basket is a risk,” Stephen Fear, businessman and British Library’s entrepreneur in residence

In my opinion having a reserve or secondary income is essential whether you are employed, self employed, or run an established business. The idea of a second income isn’t new; in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s it was commonplace. Many working-class people like my mum and dad had second jobs. In my mum’s case it was selling insurance door-to-door but many others worked in factories during the day and were barmaids or bar men at night. It wasn’t really frowned upon or considered to be unusual. In those days, people just got on with it.

 I always advise people to have two jobs: cash may be King but cashflow is Queen. By having two jobs, one where you earn most of your income and the other where you earn a support income, gives a family or an individual added protection should either be lost. The same applies to businesses: putting all your eggs in one basket puts you at risk. An electrician who sub-contracts to one developer could find himself in dire straits should that developer go bust for any reason.

Make sure you have two or more sources of income at all times. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security – we live in a world where the only thing that is certain is that the future is uncertain. 

Jade Saunders
Jade Saunders

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