The Self-Employed Landscape Report 2019

  • The fastest growing solo self-employed age group is the over 60s. The number of over 60 self-employed has grown by 73% since 2008 and grew by 11% in 2019 alone.
  • The number of 60 plus freelancers also grew by 7 per cent in 2019.
  • Across the UK, the number of self-employed is growing fastest in the North East; there has also been rapid growth in Scotland.
  • The freelance occupation that grew most in the last year was teaching and educational professionals – a rise of 24 per cent.
4% increase

The number of solo self-employed and freelancers across the UK continued to rise throughout 2019 – with the biggest growth among over 60s. The number of solo self-employed in this age group rose by 11 per cent, while the number of freelancers rose by 7 per cent.

These increases helped to drive up the age of the average solo self-employed worker to 47 – one year older than in 2018. The average freelancer age also rose by a year to 48. This is compared to an average age of 41 among UK employees.

As the self-employed population is on average older, a growing proportion of self-employed people are now approaching retirement age. This is increasingly worrying because recent research has shown that 30 per cent of the self-employed are not saving for their retirement, while 56 per cent of those over 55 are concerned about saving for later life.

Another group that has grown sharply in the last year is freelancers aged 16-29. The number in this group grew by 12 per cent, while the overall number of young solo self-employed people increased by four per cent. 16-29-year-olds remain, however, the smallest group among both freelancers and the solo self-employed.

Another major area of growth was the regions. Although London and the South East still have the largest of the freelance and self-employed populations, the number of freelancers grew fastest in Scotland (24% increase since 2018), while the number of self-employed people grew most quickly in the North East of England (19% since 2018). By contrast, the number of freelancers in London dropped by 6 per cent and the number of overall solo self-employed fell by 1 per cent.

In 2019, the top freelancer occupations were artistic, literary and media occupations (16% of all freelancers), managers and proprietors (10%), teaching and educational professionals (8%), functional managers and directors (7%) and information technology and telecommunication professionals (5%). These all grew or remained stable throughout the year. The largest growth was among teaching and educational professionals: this group increased by 24 per cent in 2019.

Among the solo self-employed, the top occupations were construction and building trades (444,000), road transport drivers (337,000), artistic, literary and media occupations (336,000) and agricultural and related trades (222,000).

Read the full report here


Meet the author

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Chloe Jepps

Head of Research

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