A new report published today, from the Centre for Research on Self-Employment (CRSE) in conjunction with the Institute for Employment Studies, has identified nine distinct segments which make up the UK’s solo self-employed population.

The True Diversity of Self-Employment is the first major piece of research published by the CRSE, which found that the solo self-employed can be segmented by earnings, levels of independence and how much security their working situation provides.  

The research shows that the majority of the solo self-employed workforce can be characterised by high levels of independence, security and job satisfaction. At the same time, the report sheds light on the scale of the public policy challenges arising from false self-employment and the exploitation of vulnerable workers – in particular by detailing the composition of the segments where these issues are most likely to be prevalent.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Over half (53%) of the solo self-employed workforce exhibit high levels of independence and security.
  • Eight of the nine segments of the solo self-employed are as satisfied, or more satisfied, than employees doing similar jobs.
  • One in five (21%) solo self-employed workers – amounting to over 825,000 people – have been classified as insecure. They are more likely to be found among the UK’s cleaners, drivers, carers and labourers, as well as those in artistic occupations. People in this group tend to be less qualified and are much less likely to have financial security such as a private pension.
  • Of the total solo self-employed workforce, 15 per cent exhibit little autonomy or control over their work, and more must be done to clarify their self-employment status.

The report highlights the true diversity of self-employment across the UK. In doing so it opens the door for policymakers to adopt a much more targeted approach that provides real and effective support for those who need it, without threatening the autonomy and job satisfaction of the genuinely self-employed.

The full report and the executive summary can be downloaded from the CRSE's research library.