Gender differences in self-employment rates

Key findings

  • In OECD economies, one in ten employed women is self-employed, almost half the rate of self-employed men (17%). During the past ten years, however, the gap between male and female self-employment rates has closed in almost every country, and particularly so in Iceland, New Zealand and Turkey.

  • In a majority of countries, women self-employed work predominantly in the services sector (70% or more), and mostly as own-account workers rather than employers. The patterns for men are different, with a large share of self-employed men working in manufacturing and, generally, two and a half times more likely to employ others than self-employed women.

  • A gender gap is observed in all countries also among young self-employed, i.e. individuals less than 30 years old. In 2016, only in Chile and Mexico the self-employment rate of women was slightly higher than that of men.

  • The share of employees having a second job as self-employed increased in 2016 compared to 2007 in most countries, to around 2% and 1% respectively for men and women employees.

Relevance

Entrepreneurship is an important source of employment creation and innovation. It is also a vehicle for addressing inequalities, particularly across genders where significant differences remain, despite the scope that self-employment provides to manage work-home balances.

Definitions

The self-employed are defined as those who own and work in their own business, including unincorporated businesses and own-account workers, and declare themselves as “self-employed” in population or labour force surveys. Self-employed category consists therefore of the sum of employers and own-account workers.

The number of women (men) employers is given by the number of women (men) who report their status as “self-employed with employees” in population surveys. The number of women (men) own-account workers is given by the number of women (men) who report their status as “self-employed without employees”. The share of women (men) employers (own-account workers) is given in relation to the total number of women (men) in employment.

The gender gap in self-employment rate for the year t corresponds to the difference between male and female self-employment rates in t. Contribution of female (male) self-employment rate change is calculated as the difference between t and t-n female (male) self-employment rates.

The share of self-employed in the population of young employed is calculated by dividing the number of self-employed women (men) between 15 and 29 years old by the number of all employed women (men) between 15 and 29 years old.

The share of self-employed in the population of employed with foreign citizenship is calculated by dividing the number of self-employed women (men) with foreign citizenship by the number of all employed women (men) with foreign citizenship.

The share of women (men) employees having a second job as self-employed is calculated by dividing the number of women (men) employees who declare that they have a second job as self-employed by the total number of women (men) employees.

Information on data for Israel: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888932315602.

Comparability

The main comparability issue relates to the classification of “self-employed” owners of incorporated businesses. Some countries, notably Japan, New Zealand and Norway include only the self-employed owners of unincorporated businesses, following the 2008 SNA, which is likely to create a downward bias in the contribution of self-employed owners with employees in these countries.

In Figure 6.6, services include sectors 45-96 of ISIC Rev. 4. In Figure 6.7, data refer to self-employed with foreign citizenship for all countries with exception of the United States, where data refer to foreign-born.

Not all the self-employed are necessarily entrepreneurs in the purest sense, as defined in the OECD Entrepreneurship Indicators Programme. Self-employment statistics include, for example, craft-workers engaging in low level activity, often for leisure purposes. Care is thus needed in interpreting the data in analyses of entrepreneurship.

Further reading

OECD (2017), Report on the implementation of the OECD Gender Recommendations, Meeting of the OECD Council at Ministerial Level Paris, 7-8 June 2017, http://www.oecd.org/mcm/documents/C-MIN-2017-7-EN.pdf.

Figure 6.1. Trends in self-employment rate, OECD average, by category and gender
2007 = 100
picture

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933564481

Table 6.1. Number of self employed by category and gender
Thousands of persons, 2016 or latest available year

Country

Age

Employers

Own account workers

Men

Women

Men

Women

Australia

15+

494

236

818

431

Austria

15-64

137

49

153

110

Belgium

15-64

137

49

284

144

Canada

15-64

559

220

1,001

729

Chile

15+

253

80

946

684

Czech Republic

15-64

117

34

431

229

Denmark

15-64

67

23

80

40

Estonia

15-64

18

7

21

13

Finland

15-64

71

22

130

73

France

15-64

807

285

1,132

666

Germany

15-64

1,246

436

1,237

824

Greece

15-64

188

74

528

274

Hungary

15-64

146

61

138

88

Iceland

15-64

5

2

9

4

Ireland

15-64

66

21

156

43

Israel

15+

119

26

172

116

Italy

15-64

992

362

2,299

1,121

Japan

15-64

107

23

287

110

Korea

15+

1,203

378

2,771

1,211

Latvia

15-64

25

10

38

29

Lithuania

15-64

22

9

71

46

Luxembourg

15-64

7

3

8

6

Mexico

15-64

1,536

408

5,948

3,829

Netherlands

15-64

243

86

572

377

New Zealand

15-64

25

13

66

44

Norway

15-64

34

11

74

40

Poland

15-64

429

179

1,471

731

Portugal

15-64

134

63

244

167

Romania

15-64

63

24

925

333

Slovak Republic

15-64

57

21

204

94

Slovenia

15-64

25

8

48

23

South Africa

15-64

631

152

786

626

Spain

15-64

600

270

1,348

712

Sweden

15-64

127

37

162

84

Switzerland

15-64

179

66

126

126

Turkey

15-64

1,087

109

3,403

697

United Kingdom

15-64

505

188

2,376

1,227

United States

16-64

2,408

766

6,026

3,798

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933565051

Figure 6.2. Share of self-employed by category and gender
Percentage of total employment, 2016 or latest available year
picture

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933564500

Figure 6.3. Gender gap in self-employment rates
Percentage point difference
picture

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933564519

Figure 6.4. Share of self-employed in the population of young employed, by gender
Percentage of total employment less than 30 years old, average 2015- 2016 or latest available year
picture

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933564538

Figure 6.5. Self-employed whose activity is in manufacturing and construction
Percentage of total self-employed by gender, 2016 or latest available year
picture

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933564557

Figure 6.6. Self-employed whose activity is in services
Percentage of total self-employed by gender, 2016 or latest available year
picture

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933564576

Figure 6.7. Share of self-employed in the population of employed with foreign citizenship
Percentage of total employment with foreign citizenship, 2016 or latest available year
picture

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933564595

Figure 6.8. Share of employees having a second job as self-employed, by gender
Percentage of all employees by gender
picture

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933564614