Chapter 5: Self-employment: independent ‘enterprise’, or precarious low-skilled work? The case of the UK
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This chapter looks at the recent unprecedented expansion of self-employment in the UK, which raises important questions about the role of this form of work in the modern labour market, the income levels and wellbeing of the workers affected, and the appropriate legislative and institutional infrastructure. The policy debate has been given further impetus by the emergence of hybrid forms of work in the ‘gig’ economy, which share some characteristics with self-employment and others with employees. This chapter reviews the UK literature and statistical evidence, drawing also on the author’s recent work on the job quality of the self-employed, addressing the question of how far these developments can be interpreted as a positive development, reinforcing entrepreneurship and economic growth, or whether they are reinforcing labour market inequalities and generating new forms of disadvantage for the ‘new self-employed’.

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