Last updated 21 February 2018 - see all updates

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1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2016, 15% of workers in the UK were self-employed

  • Pakistani/Bangladeshi workers were most likely to be self-employed, and Black workers were least likely to be

  • there was an increase in self-employment across all ethnic groups between 2011 and 2016

Things you need to know

This data comes from the Annual Population Survey (APS), which is the largest ongoing household survey in the UK and has a sample size of 320,000 respondents. The survey is based on interviews with members of randomly selected households.

Although this is a relatively large survey, and the results are presented for broad ethnic groupings, some caution should still be used when comparing estimates for ethnic groups or looking at changes over time. This is because they are survey estimates based on a sample of the population and are subject to a degree of uncertainty.

Because fewer people from ethnic minority backgrounds took part in the survey, the resulting estimates for ethnic groups are less reliable than for the White group. Presenting the findings for broad ethnic groupings, as we have done here, provides more reliable estimates by ethnicity. But it means we cannot show differences between more specific ethnic groups.

What the data measures

This data shows the percentage of the workforce that is self-employed, broken down by ethnicity.

The ‘workforce’ means everyone aged 16 or over who is working, whether as an employee or self-employed.

The ethnic categories used in this data

The analysis uses the following broad ethnic categories, based on the 2001 Census:

  • Black/Black British
  • Indian
  • Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups
  • Pakistani/Bangladeshi
  • White
  • Other (which contains Chinese, other Asian and other ethnic groups)

This analysis distinguishes between the Indian ethnic group and the Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups (which are combined). This reflects the different employment-related outcomes among different Asian ethnic groups, and is in line with other publications on the official labour market statistics website, Nomis.

2. Self-employment by ethnicity over time

Percentage of the workforce in self-employment by ethnicity over time
Ethnicity 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
% % % % % %
Black 8.1 9.9 9.9 10.2 10.9 10.7
Indian 11.5 13.2 13.6 12.2 13.7 14.0
Mixed 11.7 11.6 11.2 14.8 11.3 14.6
Pakistani/Bangladeshi 21.4 22.8 20.6 21.0 21.8 22.1
White 14.0 14.3 14.4 14.8 14.8 15.2
Other 15.1 15.0 15.0 16.9 15.0 16.5

Download table data for ‘Self-employment by ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Self-employment by ethnicity over time’ (CSV)

Summary of Self-employment Self-employment by ethnicity over time Summary

This data shows that:

  • from 2011 to 2016, there was an increase in self-employment from 14% to 15% of all workers

  • self-employment rates increased for all ethnic groups over this period

  • in 2016, self-employment was most common in the Pakistani/Bangladeshi workforce, where 22.1% of workers were self-employed

  • in the same period, self-employment was least common in the Black workforce, where 10.7% of workers were self-employed

3. Methodology

The APS comprises 12 months of survey data. It combines data from four successive quarters of the Labour Force Survey with rolling year data from the English, Welsh and Scottish Local Labour Force Surveys. The achieved sample size is approximately 320,000 respondents.

Interviews are carried out either on a face-to-face basis, with the help of laptops or on the telephone.


Weighting is used to adjust the results of a survey to make them representative of the population and improve their accuracy.

For example, a survey which contains 25% females and 75% males will not accurately reflect the views of the general population, which we know is around 50% male and 50% female.

Statisticians rebalance or ‘weight’ the survey results to more accurately represent the general population. This helps to make them more reliable.

Survey weights are usually applied to make sure the survey sample has broadly the same gender, age, ethnic and geographic make up as the general population.

Suppression rules and disclosure control

Sample sizes of less than 30 have been suppressed.

‘Suppression’ means these figures have not been included in the data, to protect confidentiality and because the numbers involved are too small to draw any reliable conclusions.


Percentages have been rounded to one decimal place.

Quality and methodology information

4. Data sources


Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

Official statistics


Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

Publication frequency


Purpose of data source

The Annual Population Survey (APS) is the largest ongoing household survey in the UK and covers a range of topics, including:

  • personal characteristics
  • labour market status
  • work characteristics
  • education
  • health

The purpose of the APS is to provide information on important social and socio-economic variables at local levels, such as labour market estimates.

The published statistics also allow government to monitor estimates on a range of issues between censuses.

5. Download the data

Self-employment - Spreadsheet (csv) 6 KB

This file contains the following: ethnicity, year, value, denominator, numerator