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Self-employed up 367,000 in four years, mostly since 2011

Released: 06 February 2013 Download PDF

The number of workers who are self-employed in their main job rose 367,000 between 2008, the start of the economic downturn, and 2012, a new report from ONS shows today.

This rise has mainly been since 2011: of the 367,000 increase in self-employment, 219,000, or 60%, was between 2011 and 2012. By contrast, the number of employees, which fell 434,000 between 2008 and 2012, dropped mainly at the beginning of the period, with a drop of 600,000 between 2008 and 2009, with a partial recovery since 2010. The increase in self-employment took place across all parts of the UK, with the exception of Northern Ireland, where the number of self-employed workers decreased. There was an increase of 431,000 over that period in the number of self-employed people who worked on their own or with a partner, but a drop of 66,000 in the number of self-employed workers who had employees working for them.

Today’s report shows that self-employed people work longer hours than employees – on average 38 hours a week compared with 36 for employees. Self-employed workers tend to be older than employees and are more likely to be male – in 2012 the average age of the 4.2 million self-employed was 47, and 70% of them were men, while the average age of the 25.0 million employees was 40 and only 51% of them were men.

The four most common occupations for self-employment were taxi or cab drivers (166,000), ‘other construction trades’ (161,000), carpenters and joiners (140,000) and farmers (123,000). Some 58% of self-employed people used their home for work purposes to some extent, either working there (15%), using it as a base (38%) or working on the same grounds or building as their home (5%).  

The proportion of workers who were self-employed was highest in London (18%), followed by the South West (16%), while the lowest proportion was in the North East (11%), followed by Scotland and Yorkshire and the Humber (both 12%).

A podcast giving more background on this analysis in available on the ONS Youtube channel at www.youtube.com/user/onsstats

Background notes

  1. There is a summary report at http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lmac/self-employed-workers-in-the-uk/february-2013/rpt-self-employed-workers.html
  2. Data refer to the April-June period of each year.
  3. The occupation ‘other construction workers’ is a general category for construction workers who do not fall into the other main skill groups, such as carpenters or plumbers. They undertake a variety of tasks in the construction, alteration, maintenance and repair of buildings and other structures.
  4. This report is part of a series of work on the labour market and economy to help in understanding the productivity conundrum. A detailed preliminary report was published on 16 October 2012 at http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/elmr/the-productivity-conundrum/explanations-and-preliminary-analysis/art-explanations-and-preliminary-analysis.html
  5. Follow us on www.twitter.com/statisticsONS and on the ONS Youtube channel at www.youtube.com/user/onsstats
  6. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from the media relations office.
  7. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference. © Crown copyright 2013.

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