But highly educated under 40s make up an increasing share of the self-employed, even if the crisis has limited their growth to 250,000 new jobs

Raising educational attainment and providing relevant skills and competences in a lifelong perspective is crucial for the EU, especially for the low skilled. Among other objectives, this is to increase competitiveness and employability in a time of significant changes.

This is also true for the young self employed who constitute a small but important segment of the labour market. The indicator presented here focuses on the number of self employed (with or without employees) as a percentage of all workers aged less than 40. The indicator is broken down by education level.


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Data source: Cedefop’s calculations based on Eurostat, Labour Force Survey


Key points 

  • The self-employed account for 10.5% of all workers in the EU aged less than 40: most are medium-skilled self employed (5.2%), but around one fifth (2.3%) are low-skilled. 
  • The crisis has had a significant impact on low and medium skilled self employment for under 40s at EU level: the low-skilled have decreased (-74,000 in 2005-2007, but which accelerated significantly to -367,000 in 2007-2009). Medium skilled have also dropped (-59,000 in 2005-2007, and again a major contraction of -342,000 in 2007-2009). However, highly-skilled self employment grew 223,000 between 2005 and 2007 and a further 31,000 between 2007 and 2009), even though a slight decrease has been recorded between 2008 and 2009 (-33 thousands). 
  • Self employment for under 40s is highest by far in Greece and Italy: respectively 19.8% and 19.2% of all workers aged less than 40; and lowest in Denmark and Luxembourg (respectively 5.2% and 4.7%). 
  • Among self employed under 40s, the low skilled component is the largest in Portugal, Romania, Spain, Greece and Italy and lowest in Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Data insights details

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