Self-employment in Northern Ireland 2019

Date published: 26 May 2020


Self-employed refers to those who define themselves as working for themselves, rather than receiving a wage or salary from an employer. This short topic paper addresses the number of self-employed in Northern Ireland during the last 15 years. The topic paper also describes the characteristics of the self-employed group in 2019, providing a baseline of levels and characteristics before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key Points

  • The number of self-employed (16+) in Northern Ireland was estimated at 134,000 in 2019, equivalent to just over 15% of all employed people aged 16+.
  • Self-employment was more likely among employed men than women, 22% of all employed men were self-employed, compared with 8% of all employed women.
  • 9% of self-employed people were aged 65 years or over, compared with just 2% of employees.
  • The most common type of self-employment was ‘working for self’ in 2019. 10% of the self-employed had only one customer and more than three-quarters of the self-employed had no employees.
  • The largest industry sector for those classified as self-employed in 2019 was construction, representing just over one fifth (21%) of the self-employed while over a third (36%) of those classified as self-employed were employed in skilled trades occupations.
  • Northern Ireland (15%) ranked fifth highest among the UK regions in terms of self-employment rates in 2019.
  • The full topic paper is available on the self-employment in Northern Ireland 2019 page.

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