More women taking up self-employment

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The number of self-employed women without employees has increased nearly 14 per cent in the last financial year according to data from Stats NZ.

The latest data from the March 2021 quarter Household Labour Force Survey shows the number of women who were self-employed with no employees increased by 17,500 over the year.

This coincided with a drop in the number of women in paid employment, though this drop was not statistically significant.

The number of self-employed men reached 211,600 in the same period, up 3.5 per cent, though this was also not statistically significant.

“After the challenges that Covid-19 presented this past year, employment opportunities for women are continuing to bounce back and we’re seeing this in an increasing shift into self-employment,” says labour market statistics manager Andrew Neal.

The term self-employed without employees includes people who are starting their own business, sole traders, independent contractors, freelancers, or gig workers, and excludes people who employ others.

In the March 2021 quarter, when asked about how they felt about their work, 91 per cent of all self-employed women reported they would prefer to continue working as they are, according to Stats NZ. Only 6.4 per cent of self-employed women said they would prefer to work for someone else.

Self-employment concentrated in professional and administrative services

Overall, most self-employed people work in the professional, scientific, technical, administrative, and support services industry at 22.6 per cent in the March 2021 quarter. The highest number of self-employed women work in the same sector at 22.8 per cent.

This industry includes a range of jobs from architectural engineering to computer system design to building cleaning, and other support services.

Other industries with a high proportion of self-employed people are the construction industry at 15.1 per cent, the agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining industires at 11.3 per cent, the arts, recreation, and other services industry with 10.2 per cent.

A high number of self-employed women work in the arts, recreation and other services industry at 14.1 per cent, this includes personal care services. The other is retail trade, accommodation, and food services industry with 11.9 per cent of self-employed women.

Rising number of people in self-employment with no employees

In the year to March 2021, 8,600 more people were employed in New Zealand, making a total of 2,758,000 employed. Among them, there was an increase of 24,700 self-employed people in their main job.

The total number of self-employed people increased by 7.5 per cent in the year to March 2021 to reach 355,000, the only statistically significant change among other employment statuses, which includes paid employment, employers, and unpaid family work.

“People who identify as self-employed with no employees in their main job make up about 13 per cent of all employed people in New Zealand,” says Andrew.

“This is a considerable portion of the New Zealand labour force.”

Apart from 15–29-year-olds, the number of women in self-employment was level across ages, whereas the number of men in self-employment tended to increase with age.

In the year to March 2021, the number of self-employed women aged 60 and above increased by 33 per cent to reach 35,900. Other age groups recorded annual growth, though this was not statistically significant.

Self-employed people as at the March 2021 quarter

More than three-quarters of self-employed people identified as European in New Zealand, followed by Asians at 14.2 per cent. Māori and Pacific peoples made up 9.7 per cent and 2.7 per cent of all self-employed, respectively.

In the year to March 2021, 14.3 per cent of all employed people who identified as European were self-employed, an increase from 13.3 per cent from a year ago. For Māori, this was 9.3 per cent of all employed people, an increase of 2 per cent.

Almost half of those self-employed with no employees consistently identified as managers, or chief executive officers, of their own company, 51.7 per cent for men and 40.3 per cent for women. This was followed by professionals, and then technicians and trade workers.

In the year to March 2021, there was an increase of 18,600 more self-employed people who were managers.

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