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The government has been urged to do more for independent freelancers after an industry trade body revealed a quarter of its members are out of work, with many more struggling to make a profit.

A survey by the Professional Contractors Group (PCG) found one in four of its members had no current job, while 54 per cent admitted to suffered a drop in earnings over the past year compared to the previous 12 months.

Of the study’s 1,800 freelancer respondents, over half felt prospects for the rest of 2003 would be particularly gloomy, with many predicting a fall in profits after tax.

Over 70 per cent of those quizzed said they had been freelancing for more than five years, with a quarter having worked for themselves for over a decade, indicated even freelancers with vast experience had been badly affected by the downturn.

Nearly nine out of ten of those in employment said they operated as a limited company with no more than one or two employees.

Simon Griffiths, chairman of the PCG, said the government should take action on several issues his organisation had campaigned on to boost the freelance sector.

“This vindicates the views we have consistently put forward to the government, and in our recent submission to the All Party Parliamentary Small Business Group, regarding the scale of the lack of work within the freelancer community.

“Clearly, our persistent lobbying with regard to Fast Track Visas, work permits and the skills shortage list has been entirely justified.”

Griffiths said the high proportion of experienced freelancers facing difficulties was particularly worrying.

“We’re talking about the majority of freelancers surveyed having been established for a long time, which makes the proportion not in contract all the more disturbing.”

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