A new study from the Centre for Research on Self-Employment (CRSE) and the Institute for Employment Status (IES) has identified nine separate categories of self-employment, with people in eight out of nine of them reporting equal or higher satisfaction levels than conventionally employed people doing similar work.

The different categories were designated according to differences in earnings, degrees of independence and the level of security provided in their working situation.

Key findings of the study include:

  • Eight out of the nine categories of self-employed flexible workers reported identical or better levels of satisfaction than employed counterparts doing similar work
  • Just over half of self-employed people enjoy high degrees of security and independence
  • But 15% have minimal autonomy or control over their work and the report recommends new interventions to clarify their employment status
  • A fifth of this group (approximately 825,000 people) is classified as “insecure.” Most are engaged as cleaners, drivers, labourers, carers and in artistic occupations. Many tend to be less qualified and are appreciably less likely to enjoy financial security such as a private pension.

IES Director Nigel Meager emphasised that nearly five million people now work for themselves in Britain, covering a diverse range of occupations which are not confined to traditional employment arrangements. The findings, he added, illustrated immense variations between the different self-employed segments. Variables with stark contrast included general satisfaction, work-life balance, job security and income. The results, Meager hoped, would help policy-makers to understand this diversity and develop appropriate support for self-employed workers when drafting new legislation.

Suneeta Johal, Director of the CRSE, called for better access to training and skills for all segments of the self-employed. Skills development, she said, improves pay prospects and assists those with less freedom to perform their work autonomously progress into more independent roles

The nine categories identified, with examples, are as follows (independence refers to autonomy over their work):

  1. Low pay, dependent, insecure (e.g., cleaners and drivers): 8.9% of solo self-employed
  2. Low pay, independent, insecure (e.g. car mechanics, shopkeepers, artistic occupations): 8.2%
  3. Low pay, independent, secure (tutors, traders, builders, farm workers): 22.7%
  4. Mid-pay, dependent, insecure (building labourers, childminders, carers): 4%
  5. Mid-pay, dependent, secure (drivers, building operatives): 1.3%
  6. Mid-pay, independent, secure (IT contracting professionals, trainers and coaches, financial advisers, hair and beauty, skilled makers, restaurant and B&B owners, gardeners): 19.5%
  7. High-pay, regulated, secure (e.g., medical professionals): 2%
  8. High pay, mid-independence, secure (TV/film technical professionals, construction and property managers, functionals managers, book-keepers): 5.1%
  9. High pay, independent, secure (legal and business professionals): 4.1%
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