Understanding self-employment – ERC Insight Paper
Published: 7 July 2016
This Insight Paper presents the key findings of studies presented at the "Understanding Self-Employment” workshop organised by the Microbusiness Research Portal with the support of the Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research (CEEDR) at Middlesex University Business School on the 7th June 2016. The seminar explored the recent increase in self-employment in the UK, discussed the problems related to the definition of self-employment and presented the implications for policy development.
Supported by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation this report highlights the preliminary findings from a new survey of business adversity and resilience in 600 small businesses located in six London boroughs, three low-income and three middle-income. The study aims to identify the characteristics and strategies that foster resilience survival and growth in SMEs, and to develop practical toolkits to support under-represented entrepreneurs in their efforts to develop more resilient businesses. Four key findings emerge:
• Male and female-led businesses were equally likely to have experienced an existential threat to the survival of their business in the past five years. However, male business owners judged the potential for future threats to be less significant than their female counterparts.
• Ethnic-led businesses were significantly more likely than non-ethnic led businesses to have experienced a threat to the survival of their business. This effect was more evident for younger ethnic businesses and those located in low-income boroughs.
• Ethnic-minority business owners also judged the potential for future threats to be greater than their non-ethnic counterparts. Key issues included increased competition from new and existing sources, cost rises, problems with premises and changes in regulation or legislation.
• Psychological measures of personal resilience on average vary little between male and female business leaders and those from ethnic and non-ethnic groups. There is more significant variation within each group.
Published: 12 December 2018
Some groups of individuals are more likely than others to struggle to find paid employment because they experience systemic disadvantage of some kind. These groups include migrants, people who identify as having a disability, and those with low educational attainment. The entrepreneurship route – essentially becoming self-employed or starting their own businesses - is often suggested as a way into work for these people. However, fewer individuals from these groups engage in entrepreneurial activity of this kind, and those that do succeed in starting their own businesses experience lower turnover and higher failure rates than their mainstream counterparts. These groups of individuals are thus under-represented in entrepreneurship, and this paper reviews published research from both academic and non-academic sources that investigates why this might be.
Published: 5 July 2018
In this short paper, we provide a preliminary assessment of the likely impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the self-employed, and in particular, using the most recently available UK Quarterly Labour Force Survey data, we provide an analysis of which groups and where the self-employed are most at risk of significant income loss and therefore household distress.
Because of time-lags in the publication of official labour force and business statistical data, it is still too early for us to assess with any degree of precision the impact of the crisis on the self-employment. Nevertheless, the sudden closure of businesses and tight social distancing restrictions on the movement of people in the attempt to slow down the spread of Covid-19 is having unprecedented effects on employment and businesses activity. Employment and self-employment in non-food personal and domestic services is directly affected since customers are required to stay at home except for essential shopping for food and medical supplies, and where possible work from home, and so no longer permitted to use these services.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies identifies sectors that are directly affected by the lockdown: non-food, non-pharmaceutical retail; passenger transport; accommodation and food; travel; childcare; arts and leisure; personal care and domestic services (Joyce and Hu, 2020). The sector-specific employment risk coincides with specific job and worker characteristics with young people and women being predicted to be hit hardest by the lockdown. Age and gender effects are further associated with low income jobs and part-time workers. Hence, the employment effect of Covid-19 is associated with a stark level of social inequality.
However, predictions about which workers are hardest hit by the crisis (Joyce and Hu, 2020; Kitsos, 2020), included only those in paid employment.
We provide here a corresponding analysis for the self-employed.
Published: 21 April 2020
Enterprise Research Centre
Warwick Business School
University of Warwick
Coventry CV4 7AL
Enterprise Research Centre
Aston Business School
Birmingham B4 7ET
0121 204 5392