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Addressing inclusivity in the spatial and social impacts of Covid-19 on the self-employed in the UK

The self-employed are a particularly vulnerable group in this current crisis. In contrast to elsewhere, the UK has seen significant growth in self-employment, now reaching 15% of the workforce. They are predominant in those sectors most hit by shutdown and social distancing measures. This disproportionate impact on self-employment is likely to have a longer-term effect on entrepreneurial activity and regional economic performance in the UK if current policies are not able to support groups and areas that are particularly hit. Self-employment has specific social and spatial features which means that the crisis will impact on specific social groups and areas in the UK differently. Women and some ethnic groups cluster in the most affected sectors, and some regions, particularly in the North and Scotland, have large shares of self-employment in accommodation and food services. Although generous to those eligible, government support (SEISS) excludes some significant groups. We will investigate the disparate spatial and social impacts of Covid-19 on the self-employed. We will undertake 1) quantitative secondary analysis of major UK datasets in order to provide a robust understanding of differential impacts on self-employment. This will be complemented by 2a) qualitative research involving an expert panel, to provide contextualisation and aid rapid impact such as policy and practice advice, and 2b) interviews with the self-employed to understand personal perspectives and effectiveness of policy. We will provide evidence and understanding to inform future support policies, for example within local industrial strategies, to ensure rapid and sustainable recovery in this group of workers.

Lead investigator:

Darja Reuschke


University of Southampton

Primary topic:

Jobs, work, pay & benefits

Secondary topic:

Inequality & poverty

Region of data collection:


Country of data collection


Status of data collection


Type of data being collected:

From private company

Unit of real-time data collection



Periodic (other)