New data reveals that 83 percent of UK businesses are willing to offer higher wages to individuals with AI skills as they face significant hiring challenges.

With 80 percent of UK businesses planning new hires in the next six months, the search for talent is shifting away from full-time staff.

Over 40 percent of businesses have struggled to find full-time, permanent hires this year, leading 93 percent to seek support from freelancers and self-employed ‘solopreneurs,’ particularly for AI-related tasks, which make up 32 percent of the needed skills.

Part-time work is on the rise

The Fiverr UK Future Workforce Index, now in its second year, surveyed 2,200 workers, decision-makers, and freelancers, highlighting the evolving structure of the UK workforce. Traditional full-time workers now comprise only 55 percent of the workforce, a 5 percent decrease from last year.

Part-time employees and freelancers now make up 45 percent of the workforce, with freelancers alone accounting for 22 percent, a 5 percent increase from May 2023. Notably, 54 percent of self-employed workers are acquiring AI skills this year.

Freelancers and Self-Employed Workers Feel Undermined by Government

Despite the growing number of freelancers and self-employed workers in the UK, currently over 4.25 million, many feel unsupported by the government. A significant 60 percent believe the Conservative government has harmed their prospects. However, with a general election on the horizon, 47 percent of freelancers are hopeful that a Labour government will improve their situation, compared to 16 percent who disagree.

Off-payroll working rules like IR35 have been particularly problematic, with over half of freelancers stating that tax laws deter businesses from working with them. Additionally, 47 percent find IR35 damaging, and late payments remain a major barrier, affecting 37 percent of freelancers, followed by unrealistic demands and deadlines at 29 percent.

AI Skills Commanding Higher Wages

As businesses aim to innovate around AI, the demand for skilled talent is high. Nearly half (48%) of UK businesses cite low-skilled talent as the primary barrier to hiring this year. Consequently, companies are willing to offer a 45 percent salary increase for AI skills. 93 percent of businesses are turning to freelancers and self-employed workers, with 32 percent specifically seeking AI expertise.

UK companies’ AI needs are becoming more sophisticated. The most sought-after AI skills include AI content creation (35%), ChatGPT (32%), AI chatbot development (29%), MidJourney proficiency (25%), and AI image processing (21%).

Hiring challenges & the Shift Towards Flexible Work

The workforce is moving towards more flexible arrangements. Only 50 percent of full-time workers feel highly productive, and 47 percent have experienced burnout in the past year. Flexibility is a desired solution, with 45 percent of workers wanting flexible hours and 39 percent preferring a four-day work week. Meanwhile, 48 percent percent of businesses are integrating freelancers into their workforce, valuing flexible hours (35%) and specific skill sets not found in their current teams (32%).

Bukki Adedapo, International Expansion Leader at Fiverr, comments: “Our UK Workforce Index findings show that UK companies’ needs, particularly for AI skills, can’t be met solely by full-time workers. More businesses are turning to highly skilled ‘solopreneurs’ who are upskilling rapidly. However, only 32 percent of full-time workers feel fulfilled with upskilling opportunities within their business. To fill the AI skills gap and innovate, companies need a strategy that includes both bringing in skilled workers and training existing staff to ensure no one falls behind.”

 

 

 

 

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Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.