1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2018, 15.1% of workers in the UK were self-employed
  • 20.4% of workers in the combined Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group were self-employed, the highest percentage out of all ethnic groups
  • 11.2% of Black workers were self-employed, the lowest percentage out of all ethnic groups
Things you need to know

The data for this analysis comes from the Annual Population Survey (APS). The APS surveys a random sample of the population to make generalisations about the whole population.

The commentary for this data includes only reliable findings. Findings are reliable ('statistically significant’) when we can be confident they are reflective of the total population. This means we would get similar findings 19 times out of 20 if we carried out the same survey on different random samples of the population.

As with all surveys, the estimates from the APS are subject to a degree of uncertainty as they are based on a sample of the population. The degree of uncertainty is greater when the number of respondents is small, so it will be highest for ethnic minority groups.

Results taken from a low number of responses are more likely to change from year to year. What appear to be changes over time might not reflect real differences. Please use caution when interpreting short-term trends in the data, especially for small groups.

Higher-level figures may differ from those published by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Office for National Statistics that use the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

The APS updated its ethnicity questions in 2011 to be consistent with the censuses in England, Wales and Scotland. As a result, estimates from before and after 2011 may be inconsistent. Data for individual ethnic groups in 2011 is not available.

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.

A person is self-employed if they run their business for themselves, either as a sole trader or director of their own company.

The ethnic categories used in this data

In most cases, the figures shown on this page are for aggregated ethnic groups.

Separate figures are shown for different Asian ethnic groups:

  • Indian
  • Pakistani and Bangladeshi (combined)
  • Asian Other

This reflects the different employment related outcomes between different Asian ethnic groups.

It is also consistent with other official labour market statistics published by Nomis.

Separate figures are also shown for different White ethnic groups:

  • White British
  • White Other

2. By ethnicity over time

Percentage of working people aged 16 and over who are self-employed, by ethnicity over time
Ethnicity 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
% % % % % % % %
All 13.9 14.4 14.5 14.8 14.8 15.3 15.2 15.1
Asian 14.6 16.0 15.8 15.4 16.3 16.9 17.1 15.8
Indian 11.6 13.2 13.7 12.2 13.7 14.1 12.8 13.2
Pakistani, Bangladeshi 21.6 23.0 20.7 21.1 21.9 22.2 24.1 20.4
Asian Other 12.2 12.8 13.2 13.8 14.0 15.1 15.2 13.9
Black 8.2 10.1 10.0 10.4 11.0 10.8 12.3 11.2
Mixed 11.8 11.8 11.3 14.9 11.4 14.6 13.7 11.4
White 14.0 14.4 14.5 14.8 14.8 15.2 15.1 15.1
White British 13.8 14.1 14.2 14.6 14.6 14.9 14.8 14.9
White Other 16.6 17.6 17.4 16.7 17.0 17.9 17.6 17.2
Other 18.1 17.7 17.1 20.2 16.2 18.2 17.2 19.0

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV)

Summary of Self-employment By ethnicity over time Summary

This data shows that:

  • from 2011 to 2018, there was an increase in self-employment from 13.9% to 15.1% of all workers
  • in 2018, self-employment was most common in the combined Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group, where 20.4% of workers were self-employed
  • self-employment was least common in the Black ethnic group, where 11.2% of workers were self-employed
  • although the percentage of self-employed rises or falls for some ethnic groups, these figures may not represent the wider population because of the small number of people surveyed

3. Methodology

The APS is made up of 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. All APS and LFS analysis performed are weighted using 2018 population estimates

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

Values based on fewer than 3 responses have been withheld from results for all groups. This is to protect respondents’ confidentiality and because the numbers involved are too small to draw any reliable conclusions.

Additionally, if there are values based on fewer than 26 responses these will be mentioned in the download file to highlight that these estimates may not be reliable, and should therefore be used with caution.


Percentages have been rounded to 1 decimal place. Due to rounding, some totals may not add up to 100%.

Quality and methodology information

4. Data sources


Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

National Statistics


Office for National Statistics

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 the government to monitor estimates on a range of issues between censuses.

5. Download the data

Self Employment - Spreadsheet (csv) 7 KB

This file contains the following: ethnicity, year, value, denominator, numerator and confidence interval figure