The number of self-employed has grown by more than 200 thousand over the past decade, entirely due to an increase in self-employed without personnel. Their number grew to 728 thousand in 2011. At the same time, the number of self-employed with personnel remained stable at approximately 350 thousand.
Nearly 1.1 million self-employed
The total number of self-employed in the labour force younger than 65 increased in the period 2002-2011 from 867 thousand to nearly 1.1 million. There was also an increase among self-employed over-65s: from 28 thousand in 2002 to 47 thousand in 2011.
Self-employed in the employed labour force, in the age category 15-65
Notable increase self-employed in sector commercial services
The list is topped by the sector commercial services, where the number of self-employed without personnel grew from 214 thousand in 2002 to 302 thousand in 2010. Providers of business services mainly accounted for the growth. In industry (in particular in construction and manufacturing industry), the number of self-employed without personnel increased, but the total number of employees decreased. The number of self-employed without personnel rose from 84 thousand in 2002 to 124 thousand in 2010, but the number of employees dropped from more than 1.4 million to more than 1.2 million over the same period. Agriculture, forestry and fisheries was the only sector where the number of self-employed decreased.
Self-employed without personnel in the employed labour force by sector, in the age category 15-65
More higher educated self-employed
The growth in the number of self-employed without personnel was predominantly found in the older age categories and among higher educated. Among higher educated, the number of self-employed without personnel rose from 163 thousand in 2002 to 293 thousand in 2011, i.e. nearly two thirds of the total growth in self-employed without personnel.
Self-employed without personnel in the employed labour force by age and level of education, in the age category 15-65
John Michiels and Henk-Jan Dirven