As industries have changed, the proportion of employees to self-employed has shifted. In 1926 more than 20% of the workforce was either employers or self-employed. Since then, due to increases in agricultural productivity, fewer people have been employed in the farming sector, a key area for self-employment.
From the 1930s the state became a major employer. The growth of large-scale bureaucracies in both the government and private companies helped develop a relatively stable labour market for employees. The proportion of employers or self-employed in the workforce declined to a low of around 15% in the early 1970s.
From the late 20th century self-employment started to increase again. In 1986, 82% of the workforce were employees, but this fell to 78% by 2006. The percentage who were employers stayed stable at around 7%, but the self-employed rose from 10% in 1986 to 12% in 2006. In 1986, 1% of the workforce was classified as an ‘unpaid family worker’ – someone who works without pay for a family-owned business. This rose to 2% by 2006.
Self-employment and gender
Women are more likely than men to be employees or unpaid family workers. In 2006, 83% of women were employees compared with 74% of men; 5% of women were employers compared with 10% of men; and 9% were self-employed as against 15% for men. For unpaid family workers the figures were 3% for women and 2% for men.
Self-employment and age
Self-employment increases with age for both men and women. In 2006 only 6% of workers aged 25–29 were self-employed, and 15% of those aged 45–49. Although the overall number of people aged 70 and older in paid work was relatively small, almost one-third are self-employed.