How can the EU reduce the gender gap for self-employment? 

According to data from Eurostat, there’s still a significant gap in self-employment figures between men and women. In 2022, 16.1% of men were self-employed compared with 9.4% of women, and this gap was wider among low earners. 

The figures show that there was a gap of 8.4% among people with a lower educational level. Additionally, the gap widened with age. For those in the 25-49 age group, the difference was 5.7% and in the 50-64 age group, it rose to 9.9%. 

The gender pay gap was the largest in those aged 50-64 with a lower educational level. In this group, 23.9% of men were self-employed compared with 11.5% of women. In 25-49-year-olds with a high level of education, 14.2% of men and 9.9% of women were self-employed. 

When looking at the data in different EU countries, the research found that the widest gaps are in Greece at 12.2%, Slovakia at 11.3% and Malta at 10.6%. On the other hand, those with the smallest differences were Cyprus at 1.4% and Luxembourg at 3.7%. 

Barriers for women in self-employment 

The number of women in the workplace is at an all-time high, and self-employment is also rising. However, there are still some barriers that exist, such as: 

  • Workplace cultures that expect long hours and constant availability 
  • Additional unpaid caring responsibilities 
  • Struggling with irregular income and workloads 
  • Limited access to training and social protection
  • Not being to access employee rights like parental leave 

Motivations around self-employment are mixed, but flexibility, greater control of working hours and location, and work-life balance are all common reasons. The number of solo self-employed mothers has increased by 61 per cent since 2008, and this is predicted to rise further in the coming years.

Self-employment can allow women to improve their well-being and economic situation, and add value to society, but rates are still low in some groups. Some of the measures that can improve this include addressing childcare provision and affordability and retraining programs to make sure women have the skills they need. 


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