Everyday Self Employment

Self-employment has grown dramatically in the UK, up 663,000 in the four years to 2014. The ONS reports that currently 4.6 million people are self-employed in their main job (15 percent of all of those currently in work in the UK) and that a further 356,000 are self-employed in a second job. Almost three quarters of the rise in total employment since 2008, made up of self-employment. Yet average median income from self-employed work fell 22% between 2008/9 and 2012/13.

This rise in self-employment has elicited various comments – from government enthusiasm about the new ‘entrepreneurial zeal’, to scepticism about ‘disguised wage work’. While both of these characterisations describe some part of the self-employed population, neither adequately characterises many self-employed workers, older than average workers, running small own-account firms, employing few or no others, often struggling to survive, or even ‘entrapped’ in unprofitable businesses. Nor does it necessarily describe the micro self-employed, dependent on new online platforms like ‘uber’, ‘airbnb’ or ‘folksy’.

A Sociological Review Symposium

Sponsored by The Sociological Review, this timely symposium will highlight the potential contribution of sociology to re-emerging debates over self-employment. We will seek new approaches and to develop a synthesis, bringing together scholars and practitioners across disciplines (sociology, management studies, cultural and creative industries, law and geography) and areas of sociological study, including sociology of work, migration, gender, culture, identities and the family.

The symposium will focus on the everyday experiences of self-employed work and workers in a range of geographical, occupational and industrial contexts. We will consider: pressures and strains of self-employed work; work-life boundaries; times and places of self-employed work; socio-legal and political status, including migration or ethnic status. And will critically engage with current statistics on rising self-employment.

Funded places for PhD/Post-Doc Poster Presenters

Are you a PhD student or an unfunded Post-Doc? Does your work focus in whole or part on self-employment (even if your main area of interest is not work but is, for instance the family, migration, the media, criminology or something else entirely)? Would you like to present a poster about your research into self-employment (it doesn’t have to be elaborately formatted!)?

If so, please send us your idea for a poster (an abstract of approximately 100 words).

All approved poster-presenters will get travel expenses (up to a maximum of £60) to attend the symposium (up to six travel bursaries are available).Poster presentation ideas should be sent to Rachel Cohen by September 15th.


View the full timetable of the day.


  • Registration for this event is required as places are limited
  • Attendance is free and includes lunch and refreshments

To register, email Kate Hardy by September 15th.

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