Self-employment may be seen either as a survival
strategy for those who cannot find any other means of earning an income or as evidence
of entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to be one's own boss. The self-employment rates
shown here reflect these various motives.
Employment is generally measured through national
labour force surveys. According to the ILO Guidelines, employed persons are defined as
those aged 15 or over who report that they have worked in gainful employment for at
least one hour in the previous week or who had a job but were absent from work in the
Self-employed persons include employers, own-account
workers, members of producers' co-operatives, and unpaid family workers. People in the
last of these groups do not have a formal contract to receive a fixed amount of income
at regular intervals, but they share in the income generated by the enterprise; unpaid
family workers are particularly important in farming and retail trade. Note that all
persons who work in corporate enterprises, including company directors, are considered
to be employees.
The rates shown here are the percentages of the
self-employed in total civilian employment i.e.
total employment less military employees.
All OECD countries use ILO Guidelines for measuring
employment. Operational definitions used in national labour force surveys may,
however, vary slightly across countries. Only unincorporated self-employed are
included in self-employed in Australia, Canada and the United States. Employment
levels are also likely to be affected by changes in the survey design, questions
sequencing and/or the ways in which surveys are conducted. Despite this,
self-employment rates are likely to be fairly consistent over time.
In 2010, the share of self-employed workers in
the total (men and women together) ranged from under 8% in the United States,
and Norway to well over 30% in Greece, Mexico, and Turkey. In general,
self-employment rates are highest in countries with low per capita income although
Italy, with a self-employment rate of around 25.5%, is an exception. Ireland and
Spain also combine high per capita incomes and high self-employment rates.
Over the period 1990-2010, self-employment rates
have been falling in most countries. However the Czech Republic, the
Netherlands, and the United Kingdom saw moderate increases and the Slovak Republic
sharp increases, albeit from low levels in the latter country. Conversely, there
have been sharp declines in self-employment rates in Turkey, Greece,
Korea, Poland, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, and Mexico, starting from a higher
Levels and changes in total self-employment
rates conceal significant differences between men and women. While most men would
tend to be employers or own account workers, a larger share of self-employed women
play a supporting role in unpaid family jobs. In 2010, considering those countries
with data, only two countries, Mexico and Turkey recorded female self-employment
rates larger than the male rate. In the case of Turkey, almost half of all woman
with a paid job are self-employed, down from 78.4% recorded in 1990.