From the TUC

What has been happening to self-employment lately?

25 Feb 2015, by in Labour market

Self-employment has become a popular subject recently, with many commentators having various explanations for the rise in self-employment.  In this post I am aiming to clarify what’s been happening to self-employment over the long term, since 2008, over the past year, and the important difference between men’s and women’s experiences.

The growth in self-employment is a long term trend,  but it’s a trend that accelerated rapidly after the economic down turn in 2008. The rise in self – employment has been well documented by us along with our concerns that some people may have been forced into self- employment as they have no alternative employment. Self-employment currently stands at 4.5 m; however it has been falling over recent months.    

Employee v self-employment numbers 2008-2014

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Previous TUC analysis of self-employment has shown that self-employed workers often earn less, are more likely to be underemployed and have less job security than employees. What is more, since early 2008, 60 percent of the increase in self employment has been in part-time self employment.

Change in full time and part-time self employment 2008-14

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The latest labour market figures, as with the trend over the last couple of months show the rise in employment has been in full time employee jobs and that self- employment has been falling. However this fall in self employment only applies to full-time self –employment as the numbers in part time self employment have continued to increase.

Full time v part time self employment over last six months

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Of the increase in net employment since 2008, 31% has been in part-time self employment which is remarkable considering part-time self employment makes up less than five percent of the work force.

While the debate on the rise in self employment continues, less attention has been paid on the gender dimension to this. Women currently account for a third of self employed workers but 63 percent of the increase in self- employment since Jan- March 2008. And since early 2008 the number of women working part-time in self employment has increased by 45%, while for men this has been 33%.

Over the last year, of the net increase in women’s employment, 28 percent was in self-employed part time work, where as for men this actually fell. 

So is the continued rise in self employment being driven by women?

Self employment growth 2008-2014

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The graph above breaks the self-employment data down by gender and full and part time work; this illustrates the role that women have played in the rise of part-time self employment. In  recent months while overall self- employment has been falling, this is still rising for the part-time self-employed, however this has only been the case for women. As in the latest set of labour market data, over the last quarter male self employment fell by 62,000; female self employment rose by 42,000; and part time self-employment rose by 33,000 and is solely driven by women. 

Over the last year, of the rise in self employment 88 percent has been in female self employment. 

Over the last year, we also find the rise in female part-time self employment has been driven by the 50-64 age group – this age group has made up 64% of the rise in female part time self employment. [1]

Breaking this 50-64 age group down by occupation the 2 most popular occupations are ‘elementary cleaning occupations’ and ‘managers and proprietors in other Services’.[2]  Elementry cleaning may be indicative of the odd job part time self employed we have raised concerns over.   

In summary, full-time self-employment is now falling, but over the last year part-time female self-employment has been rising. It also looks as if most part-time self employed women are likely to be in low paying occupations, as hairdressing and related services, along with elementary cleaning occupations (3), are the highest employed occupations  for this group.


[1] This data is from July to September 2013-14 as it was the latest available data

[2] ‘Elementary Cleaning Occupations’ include:  street cleaners, cleaners and domestics; launderers, dry cleaners and pressers; refuse and salvage occupations; vehicle valeters and cleaners.   ‘Managers and Proprietors in Other Services’ include: property, housing and estate managers; garage managers and proprietors; hairdressing and beauty salon managers and proprietors; shopkeepers and proprietors – wholesale and retail; waste disposal and environmental services

(3) This data is from July to September 2013-14 as it was the latest available data

One Response to What has been happening to self-employment lately?

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