New data released from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that nearly nine million people across the country have been forced to borrow more money as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Figures have increased since June, with the proportion that had borrowed £1000 or more rising from 35% in the middle of the year to 45% in December.
According to the findings, self-employed people including freelancers, those in lower income groups and people living in rented accommodation have been among the groups most affected.
The self-employed in particular have faced a prolonged period of uncertainty, with many not able to claim some, or indeed any of the emergency benefits offered by the government as a result of COVID-19. Compounding the issue is the fact that many small business owners have opted to defer their annual tax payments.
Data from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey, a weekly update issued by the ONS displayed just how badly affected the self-employed have been by the pandemic.
Compared to employees, self-employed people were more likely to borrow over £1000 in the run up to Christmas. A sizeable 61% had borrowed funds, compared to just 49% of those workers on PAYE.
The ONS said that self-employed people were the group that had noticed the biggest decrease in working hours, and reduced income as a result. Even people who had been able to quality for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) relief were worse off than before the pandemic hit.
In fact, the ONS has found that more than three quarters of self-employed people in the UK have not had any financial support whatsoever from the government’s support scheme for freelance workers. A mere 24.2 of self-employed people had benefitted from the SEISS scheme up to October it said.
Many disabled people have been similarly affected, with 36% having to borrow over £1000 compared to just 13% back in June of last year according to the ONS statistics.