If you’ve struggled to find an independent tradesman it could be because their numbers are dwindling. Figures from Simply Business, the UK’s largest small business insurance provider, show that companies dedicated to some of the UK’s most crucial trades are on the decline.
The largest fall is in plumbing, which has seen a 25 per cent drop in businesses currently operating since 2009 and a seven per cent drop in the last year alone. This is closely followed by bricklayers, down 19 per cent, window cleaners down 18 per cent and joiners down 17 per cent in the last three years. Numerous other trades such as builders, carpenters and painter/decorators, have also seen their numbers decrease.
The findings, based on Simply Business quote and policy data from over 300,000 small businesses, reflect the decline in the wider construction industry, which recently saw output drop to its lowest level since 2009*. The economic downturn and depressed housing market has also hit the domestic market, with homeowners looking to make improvements themselves or not at all. Research last year showed the amount paid to tradesmen for home improvements had dropped by 40 per cent since 2001**.
On the positive side, it appears the gender balance in what is a traditionally male-dominated industry may be improving, with evidence showing that woman-run businesses are on the rise in some trades. The proportion of female-led bricklaying businesses is up 16 per cent, window cleaning businesses up 10 per cent, building businesses up eight per cent and painter and decorator businesses up five per cent.
One trade that has prospered in recent years is cleaning, up by 33 per cent since 2009, reflecting a society where the majority of people find little time to clean their own homes. Notably, chimney sweeps have also seen a revival, with a four per cent rise over the last three years, perhaps due to the current middle-class popularity of open fires.
Jason Stockwood, CEO of Simply Business commented: “Independent tradesmen provide a vital, often highly-skilled service to both home owners and commercial industry. It is therefore worrying to see a decline in some trades over recent years, as the slow economy has hit spending on infrastructure and home improvements.
“There are tentative signs of recovery in 2013 with house prices and confidence on the up . However, with Government spending on infrastructure and housing slow to materialise, commercial construction could be in for a more drawn-out recovery. While there are still thousands of talented tradesmen doing a fantastic job across the country, investment is needed to ensure there is enough work to keep them all afloat.”
* Markit/CIPS purchasing managers’ index – February 2013
** Lloyds TSB survey – May 2012
|Biggest fallers since 2009||% down|
|Painter and decorator||-5%|
Ex-bricklayer, Scott Ogden, 37, left the building trade to become a Tour Manager for All Inn Records, a recording company:
“I got into the building trade after leaving school because it was quite a well-paid job at the time. But during the recession, everything changed. Tradesmen suffered a 40 per cent pay cut while also taking on more responsibilities. You always feel like a dispensable employee without any rights - you don’t know whether you’ll have a job from one day to the next and I would rarely work a full week.
“The situation made me realise that I wanted a job where I was respected, doing something I am really passionate about. I now work as a tour manager for a recording company, All Inn Records, and also work as a Reiki healer on the side. My new career suits my personality and interests so much more than bricklaying and the change has transformed how I feel about working. I definitely have no regrets so far.”
Ben Jenkins/Zuzana Bielikova
020 7009 3100
Launched in 2005, Simply Business provides an online brokerage service, delivering policies tailored to individual business requirements. Using the power of tech and data to create the best possible customer experiences, Simply Business employs over 600 people across offices in London, Northampton, and Boston in the US.
Owing to its internal underwriting capability, Simply Business can cover over 1,000 trade types – ranging from plumbers to accountants to dog walkers. An accredited B Corp for their positive social impact, Simply Business has also been voted the Sunday Times Best Company To Work For twice in a row.
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