Work and Pay

Who are the new self employed?

  • Published: Jul 18, 2012
  • Authors: Tom MacInnes, Gillian Taylor
  • Category: Work and Pay

This week's Labour Market Statistics show another rise in the number of people in self-employment. It rose by 230,000 in the last year compared to a rise of 130,000 for people in employee jobs. Our analysis shows that much of the growth, both recent and over the medium term, is among people aged over 40. One could see this as a counterpart to youth unemployment. Whereas the shortage of jobs manifests itself as high unemployment among the young, it shows up as rising self employment among older workers. 

The graphs below show some of the key changes in this group - its growth over time, the differences by age and gender and the type of self employment people are in. Click one of the small images and then use the arrows to move through the four graphs.  The figures all come from our analysis Labour Market Survey dataset, from the ONS.  

We can see that self employment is much more about full time than part time work, but the part time proportion is growing quickly. Self employment is still largely male, although there has been a rise in women working as self employed. It is also much more common among older workers, and the rise among the over 45s accounts for most of the growth. Self employment is not really about starting your own business, either - it's far more likely that a self employed person be "working for themselves" than running a company. 

If people "working for themselves" are making up for hours lost in their main jobs by picking up work on an ad-hoc basis elsewhere, this is not good news. A rise in this type of self employment is likely to result in lower take home pay, and therefore household incomes, than a rise in employee jobs. It helps us explain why, with unemployment no longer rising, economic growth is still almost invisible. Economic recovery needs full time jobs. 

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