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24 October 2017

Under-rated and overlooked: Wales’ self-employed community needs to be recognised for the asset it is to our economy

FSB Wales has called on Welsh Government to institute a major policy review of self-employment, after unveiling the largest study into self-employment patterns in Wales.

Going Solo: Understanding Self Employment in Wales was produced by Professor Andrew Henley of Cardiff University, and Dr Mark Lang. The snapshot sets out, for the first time, the different patterns of self-employment across Wales, and makes eleven recommendations for policy makers.

The report finds that the majority of the increase in self-employment since 2008 has been because of positive entrepreneurial “pull” rather than dependency “push” – the gig economy, whilst a current concern, is actually a very small proportion of the self-employed.

A major finding of the report is that the effect of place on self-employment in Wales is significant. It is possible to identify three local authority types in Wales, including ‘rural’, ‘urban and urban periphery’ and ‘Valleys and deprived urban’, which mostly divide into self-employment rates of around 20%, between 10%-20% and under 10% respectively. These regional variances must be reflected as we move towards regional economic development.

The report also looks at the gender make-up of the self-employed in Wales, and finds that far more men enter self-employment than women, and when women do enter self-employment they are less likely to employ others. Therefore, more must be done to support women to enter self-employment.

Janet Jones, FSB Wales Policy Unit Chair, said:

“Championing the self-employed is in our DNA. To quote our full title – the ‘National Federation of Self Employed and Small Businesses’ – we exist to promote and protect the interests of all those who set up their own businesses and are self-employed. Since we were established in 1974, we have worked hard to ensure society recognises, values and adequately rewards the endeavours of those who are self-employed.

“For the first time, a report in Wales gives a detailed snapshot of the 13% of the population that are self-employed.

“It has been clearly demonstrated that self-employment for most, is not a last resort, but a choice. Self-employment is an option for entrepreneurial thinkers who seek to make a success of their ideas, and to benefit our Welsh economy by doing so. Self-employment in Wales is a positive landscape, and it is our job to ensure we build the infrastructure to sustain it.

“In order to do so, it is crucial that the Welsh Government commit to a review of self-employment, and should update their entrepreneurship policy to ensure that it addresses the evolving nature of self-employment.”

“The evidence shows that many younger self-employed individuals are living with parents and as the pressure on housing inevitably grows, we must look at how we build the infrastructure to support the self-employed. We need to look at the suitability of premises and explore expanding co-working environments as the trend points to the majority of the self-employed either working from home or having no fixed place of work.”