Nearly One in Two (46%) of the Entire Self Employed Workforce in the UK is now Over the Age of 50

Monday 29 July 2019

The number of over 50s working for themselves made up 46 per cent of the UKs entire self-employed workforce in the first three months of 2019, according to new research from Rest Less. There are now 2.27 million over 50s who are self-employed – up from 1.45 million 10 years ago, an increase of 57 per cent in a decade.

Rest Less – a jobs, volunteering and advice site for the over 50s – analysed bespoke data from the Office of National Statistics to highlight self-employment trends amongst the different demographic groups in the UK.

Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less commented on the research: “Many people in their 50s and 60s can feel left behind and ignored from the workforce due to their age. For those who have had to take time out of their careers, perhaps to look after grandchildren or an elderly relative, it can be much harder than it should be to open doors back into the workplace. Sadly, with age discrimination still alive and well, we are seeing more and more over 50s finding they have no choice but to venture into the world of self-employment to make ends meet.”

The analysis also shows that:

  • In 2019, nearly 1 in 5 (19%) of the entire self-employed workforce is over 60
  • The number of over 60s who are self-employed increased from 579,000 in 2009 to 949,000 in 2019 – an increase of 64%
  • The total number of self-employed individuals has increased from 3.85 million to 4.92 million in the last 10 years. Of this 1.1 million increase, 820,000 is amongst those over 50 – nearly 4 in 5 of them or 77%

Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, added: “Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom with many well funded boomers choosing to set up their own businesses for the love of doing so, whether consulting, a passion project or to be the next success story on dragons den. At a time in life when the kids have moved out and the mortgage is perhaps a little smaller, many are finding that they have the luxury of choice for the first time. ”

Patrick Thomson, Senior Programme Manager, Centre for Ageing Better commented: “Older workers are the fastest growing part of the workforce, and this is also true of those in self-employment. With a rising state pension age and more of us needing to work for longer to support our longer lives, self-employment can offer opportunities for flexible, fulfilling and rewarding work.

“While many people choose self-employment as a way of offering more flexibility and choice, others might be turning to self-employment due to barriers in the job market like ageism or a lack of opportunities for progression.

“While self-employment can be a great option for many people in the later part of their working lives, particularly because of the flexibility it offers, self-employed people risk missing out on some of the key benefits of working for an employer, such as employer pension contributions, support for a health condition or carers leave. Official statistics show that 45% of self-employed people aged 35 to 54 have no private pension wealth. It is crucial then that people in this position plan and prepare for how their circumstances might change in later life.”

Total Male and Female Proportion of Total
Self-Employed Workforce
2009 2019 Increase % Increase 2009 2019
16-29 414,254 495,636 81,382 19.6 10.7 10.1
30-39 866,421 1,008,033 141,612 16.3 22.5 20.5
40-49 1,123,490 1,144,058 20,568 1.8 29.2 23.3
50-59 871,110 1,322,124 451,014 51.8 22.6 26.9
60-69 504,496 715,800 211,304 41.9 13.1 14.6
70-79 67,610 193,138 125,528 185.7 1.8 3.9
80 plus 6,536 40,423 33,887 518.5 0.2 0.8
Total 3,853,917 4,919,212 1,065,295 27.6 100 100
Over 50s 1,449,752 2,271,485 821,733 56.7 37.6 46.2
Over 60s 578,642 949,361 370,719 64.1 15 19.3

Case Study of Jill Perkins of Perkins & Morley

Jill Perkins is 72 and lives with her husband near Dawlish in South Devon. She has been self-employed since her 30s, running Perkins & Morley. She had 42 jobs before finally going to art college in her 30s! She won an art competition to go to Sri Lanka and worked there for two years designing crafts. It was there she met her business partner and they returned to the UK and set up a business together importing toys. It developed into designing dinnerware for the US which was a booming business for them. After 9/11 they had to change tack and started making cards as well.

Jill has been her own boss since leaving art college and has never imagined herself retiring. As long as she is able to, she will work. She doesn’t work full time anymore though but in her spare time, she bodyboards, horse rides and has just taken up landscape gardening.

She has a fantastic zest for life and is a pleasure to talk to!

(Please note that Jill Perkins will only partake in a media interview if it mentions her business Perkins & Morley).

Notes to Editors:

*Source: ONS, bespoke analysis of the Labour Force Survey, The data is based on the period of January – March between 2009 and 2019 – figures are not seasonally adjusted.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Aisling Gray
PR Lead, Rest Less
Phone: 07900996065
Email: [email protected]

About Rest Less

Rest Less ( launched in October 2018 and is a membership community for the over 50s designed to help its members get more out of life. Rest Less has tens of thousands of jobs available on its site from progressive age-friendly employers across the country. Rest Less is the only site in the UK to offer flexible opportunities to work, volunteer or even start a new career path, specifically targeting the rapidly growing over 50s market.