New figures published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that business births were up in Q3 versus the same period last year, driven in part by greater opportunities for homeworking.
In total, there were 95,395 new businesses added to the Government’s Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR) in the third quarter, a 5% rise over the same period last year. The data runs contrary to expectations that business creation would be significantly lower because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The types of businesses created were smaller than usual in terms of employment and turnover and more likely to be in industries less affected by the pandemic, such as professional and administrative services which offer greater opportunities for homeworking. There was also a large increase in the number of retail businesses created relative to earlier quarters, which may be due to the large increase in online sales since the pandemic began.
The figures reflect a recent report compiled for BDO by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), which identified a number of digital sectors as being ripe for growth. These include e-medicine, cybersecurity, e-learning, entertainment and gaming, and home-based IT consultancy among others.
The prospects for growth in these sectors have been boosted, in part, by drastic changes in working practices since the first lockdown, which have led to the widespread uptake of both new and existing technologies.
Tony Spillett, partner and head of the technology sector at BDO said: “COVID-19 has undoubtedly had a catastrophic effect on many businesses, but it also represents a moment of opportunity for the digital economy, which will play a leading role in the economic recovery.
“The experience of lockdown has turbo charged the adoption of new technologies and opened many people’s eyes to new opportunities in the digitally-enabled economy. It has also led to a huge increase in demand for online services. These latest figures may provide some early evidence that entrepreneurs are responding proactively to this significant structural shift.”
According to separate research from the Cebr, the digital-using and digital-creating sector is already a significant contributor to UK economic output, making up 12.2% of total gross value added (GVA) in 2019. However, this is set to rise to 17.8% of UK GVA in 2025 as an estimated 1 million additional people gain the opportunity to work from home.
New homeworking opportunities will also enable hundreds of thousands of people including carers, pensioners and parents of young children to enter or return to the workforce when previously they would have been unable to do so. Cebr estimates that this trend could create an additional 1.2 million tech jobs by 2025.