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CRSE, Institute for Employment Studies
November, 2017
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The True Diversity of Self-Employment

The True Diversity of Self-Employment has been produced by the CRSE in conjunction with the Institute for Employment Studies. The research found that there are nine distinct segments which make up the UK’s solo self-employed population, defined by their economic wellbeing, independence and security.

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 expansion of self-employment in recent years has fostered a tension between those highlighting the economic benefits of the self-employed workforce and those highlighting the precariousness, insecurity and low incomes that characterise some parts of this labour group. The report aims to resolve this tension and provide greater clarity about the heterogeneity of self-employment. 

By highlighting the true diversity of self-employment, this report 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.