Economic downturn creates a new wave of self-employed

One in five Australians self employed

6 May 2010

Australia’s economic downturn has forged a new generation of home-grown entrepreneurs, with one-in-five respondents describing themselves as ‘self-employed’, and of the rest, approximately half expressing a desire to work more independently, according to the latest survey from global workforce solutions leader Kelly Services. 

The findings are part of the Kelly Global Workforce Index, which obtained the views of approximately 134,000 people, including more than 20,000 in Australia.

The survey also finds that almost a quarter of respondents want to start their own businesses, with Gen Y (aged 18-29) the most enthusiastic about starting commercial ventures.

The ranks of the self-employed - also known as independent contractors or free agents - are more likely to be Gen X (aged 30-47) and baby boomers (aged 48-65), and are mostly male.

Kelly Services managing director Karen Colfer says, "Many of those who lost their jobs as a result of the global economic crisis are reinventing themselves as independent contractors, freelancers and consultants. Today, more people are taking charge of their own careers and view self-employment as a way of achieving personal and professional success.” 

Results of the survey in Australia reveal:

  • 21 percent of respondents are currently self-employed, made up of 26 percent of baby boomers, 22 percent of Gen X and 18 percent of Gen Y.
  • The main factors respondents cite that would prevent a move into self-employment are uncertainty about income, lack of support, and risk of failure.
  • Most baby boomers (53 percent) believe their skills would be sufficient to enable self-employment, compared with 48 percent of Gen X and 38 percent of Gen Y.
  • Approximately one third of respondents believe there will be strong market demand for their individual skill sets.
  • 22 percent of respondents plan to start a business, comprising 27 percent of Gen Y, 18 percent of Gen X, and 12 percent of baby boomers.

The appeal of self-employment coincides with a trend toward the outsourcing of non-core functions, which has seen many organisations reduce their permanent workforce, creating new opportunities for these independent contractors. 

When seen from a generational perspective, there is a pattern of younger workers being more enthusiastic than their older counterparts about embarking on a more flexible and entrepreneurial work arrangement.

Those industries with the greatest concentration of self-employed workers were Business Services, Government, Utilities and IT.

“Our survey results indicate an increase in the number of people who are either engaged in or are planning some form of entrepreneurial activity.  Despite uncertainty, the idea of moving out of the traditional employment relationship is appealing to those who want the flexibility of working for themselves,” Karen Colfer concludes.  


About the Kelly Global Workforce Index
The Kelly Global Workforce Index is an annual survey revealing opinions about work and the workplace from a generational viewpoint. Approximately 134,000 people from North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific responded to the 2010 survey with results published on a quarterly basis. In 2009, Kelly Services was the recipient of a MarCom Gold Award for the Kelly Global Workforce Index in the Research/Study category. 


Media Contact:
Michelle Taylor
Recognition PR
02 9252 2266
mct@recognition.com.au