Self-employment in the UK: Key facts and figures

Self-employment in the UK has reached an all-time high, with more and more people choosing to become their own boss. Just what do we know about those who decide to work for themselves?

The Professions

Self-employment is suited to a wide range of careers, which makes it a viable option for many different workers of all ages and all levels of skill and ability. Currently, the most popular type of occupation for those deciding to work for themselves is as a taxi driver or chauffeur. Construction has also long been a sector that appeals to those who want to branch out on their own, and this is still the case today. Self-employment is also popular for careers as a carpenter or joiner and working in farming or cleaning services. The last few years have also seen a growth in self-employment within the managerial sector, with more senior managers opting to go freelance or work as consultants.

With self-employment appealing to people of all skills and abilities, and the availability of self-employed credit to assist in turning dream ventures into reality, it is little wonder that in the UK today one in seven workers run their own business.

Age Is No Barrier

Self-employment is not just for the young and ambitious, with older people choosing this way of working, possibly using the many skills they have amassed during their earlier careers. Research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that the average age of the self-employed worker is currently 47, compared to 40 for the average non-self-employed worker. The over-65s are also emerging as a booming sector, with numbers doubling in the last five years. Currently, there are nearly half a million people over the age of 65 registered as self-employed.

Working Hours

The average person who becomes their own boss tends to work around 38 hours per week. This can vary, however, according to a wide range of factors, including the industry sector, size and age of the business, and even economic conditions. According to the ONS, around 13% of self-employed people work more than 60 hours per week. On the other hand, the rise in self-employed workers looking for another job between 2007 and 2012 was partly due to workers wanting a job with more hours of work.

Britain Leads the Way

With 15% of the UK workforce registered as self-employed, Britain is gaining a reputation as the leading self-employment hotspot in Western Europe. At the other end of the scale, Luxembourg is languishing behind with a self-employment rate of just over 8%, with Denmark not far behind at 9%. Since 2009, Britain has had the third-biggest percentage hike in self-employment across the EU. Despite the variations across Europe, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has ascertained that nearly half of Europeans would like to be their own boss.

London Rules

The capital city is the UK’s hub of self-employment, as 17.3% of Londoners choose to become their own boss. The South West also enjoys high self-employment figures at 16.6%, followed by the South East. If you live in the North East, you are the least likely to work for yourself, with self-employment scores of just 10.8%.

The Rise of the Female Boss

With self-employment at its highest level for 40 years, men are said to make up the majority of the 4.6 million British people who work for themselves. Despite this, the number of women choosing this type of working arrangement is growing faster than it is for men. Women who go down the self-employment route may not necessarily achieve the same salary as their male counterparts, however. According to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), there is a 42% pay gap between male and female self-employed workers, with many female bosses earning less than £10,000 per annum. It is not just females who typically earn low incomes when deciding to run their own businesses. Average income across the board from self-employment has dropped by 22% since 2008, putting extra financial stress on workers who need to rely on self-employed credit to manage expenditure issues.