`Four out of ten to be self-employed by 2015'

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The Independent Online
FOUR OUT of 10 workers will be self-employed within 15 years according to a Government vision of what the world of work could look like in 2015.

A report from the Department of Trade and Industry warns that school leavers, who learn their A-level results this week, will need new skills to cope with the workplace of the future.

The report envisages that:

n the shift from manufacturing to the service sector and from blue collar to white collar will accelerate;

n highly skilled, knowledge-based jobs will grow while clerical work with decline; and

n teleworking will grow substantially as companies take advantage of global time zones to squeeze three working days into one.

It outlines two possible scenarios for the UK economy in 2015. One, dubbed Wired World, depicts an economy composed of a network of individuals working and communicating through the Internet.

Individuals will no longer be able to rely on collective corporate services such as personnel advice, legal, marketing, technical and financial expertise.

Under this scenario 40 per cent of people work for themselves, in an economy that is driven by entrepreneurial business start-ups. Large corporations have been replaced by a resurgence of guilds and trade associations that also provide a social network.

The other scenario, titled Built to Last, assumes that the economy develops in the opposite direction. Large corporations dominate the business scene while self-employment and contract working have become almost obsolete as employers compete with each other to retain their employees, whose knowledge is seen as their competitive advantage.

The package of benefits includes share options, healthcare, insurance, social facilities, family benefits and nursery schools and corporate universities where staff can augment their skills base.

Alan Johnson, the Industry Minister, said the report, which was written by the DTI Future Unit, raised "interesting questions". "It is designed to provoke debate both in the Department and more generally to help us prepare for and shape the changes ahead of us," he said.

Meanwhile, small manufacturers are beginning to see an end to the recession despite falls in orders and jobs over the last four months, according to a survey out today.

Overall business confidence was the least negative for two years with pessimists outnumbering the optimists by 2 per cent, the Confederation for British Industry said.

The CBI said the survey showed there was no justification for another rise in interest rates.