18 May 2018

– Richard Voisey, Nwes Business Consultant

You may have considered how many people is the UK are self-employed or what the most common self-employed occupations are?  I have reviewed statistic extracted from the Office for National Statistics, Labour Force Survey to pick out the key findings.


Rapid Growth

Self-employment has been a pronounced feature of the UK labour market in recent years. The number of self-employed increased from 3.3 million people (12.0% of the labour force) in 2001 to 4.8 million (15.1% of the labour force) in 2017.


Gender Split

In 2017, the number of self-employed men amounted to 3.2 million, compared with 1.5 million self-employed women. Since 2009, the number of self-employed workers has increased, the figures for men grew by 864,000; the figures for self-employed women grew by 648,000. Over this seven-year period the proportion of women who are self-employed has risen by 3.2%.


Popular Work

Self-employed taxi drivers, cab drivers and chauffeurs top the league table at 182,000, with construction and building trade people closely behind at 172,000, and carpenters and joiners in third with 150,000 workers. IT and telecommunication workers as a category come in 20th position with 37,000 working in the industry.


Going It Alone

The number of self-employed reporting themselves as working on their own, or with a partner but no employees, has increased between 2001 and 2016. This group now accounts for 4.0 million workers in 2016 compared with 2.4 million in 2001.


How Old Are Start-Ups?

The two fastest growing ages groups are 16-24-year olds and 65+, although they only account for 4.1% of total employment numbers. Self-employment is still most prevalent in the 45-54 age group.


Educational Themes

The growth in self-employment has been driven mainly by those who have a degree (or equivalent). The percentage of the self-employed with a degree or equivalent increased from 19.3% in 2001 to 32.6% in 2016, as a share of the total self-employed.



  • More people are now self-employed in the UK
  • Part-time self-employment is a growth area
  • Whilst full time employed, and self-employment remains flat although amongst females, there has been growth
  • The over 65’s are supplementing pensions with income from self-employment
  • The under 24s are now more likely to take the self-employment route


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