Background

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How work is organised and where it takes place has changed remarkably in the last decades. Home-based self-employment and businesses (HBBs) are part of this change. The ERC WORKANDHOME project studies business owners and the self-employed who do not have ‘traditional’ commercial premises but locate their business in their home or use the home as the base for their business activities.

Modern economies have produced high levels of self-employment in Europe outside the agricultural sector. Now almost 13% of non-farm workers are self-employed in the EU27. The Netherlands is one of the countries in Europe that has experienced the largest increase in self-employment over the past 15 years. Most importantly, self-employment is not a recession phenomenon nor has it declined after the dotcom bust with Greece and Spain consistently having a high rates of non-farm self-employment.

 

Fig-1
DEVELOPMENT OF NON-FARM SELF-EMPLOYMENT AS PERCENTAGE OF NON-FARM EMPLOYMENT IN EUROPE
Note: Eurostat Labour Force Survey
Source: Reuschke, 2016

 

 

Proportions of the self-employed who ‘usually’ work from home vary across the European Union and by gender. Countries with the highest proportions of homeworking self-employed workers amongst all self-employed include the Netherlands, Finland and Austria. The UK is a remarkably case of a much higher proportion of homeworking amongst self-employed women than men. Proportions of homeworking self-employment are low in Southern countries in the EU.

Fig-4
MICRO FIRMS AND HOME-BASED FIRMS, 2011 (EU) AND 2013 (UK)
Notes: Micro firms = 0-9 employees
Data-source: Eurostat, BIS Business Demography, Scottish Government
Source: Reuschke, 2016

Clearly, if significant proportions of the workforce and business population are home-based, this will affect neighbourhoods and the urban structure in ways not captured by existing economic theory and urban models.