Small Firms and the Solo Self-Employed
The historical decline of self-employment came to a halt in 1965 in Britain and in the 1970s in most other industrial societies. Most countries have experienced a revival of self-employment since then, albeit uneven in some cases, but the growth in Britain up to 1990 was spectacular and attracted special attention ( OECD, 1992: 155, 172-3). This new rising trend prompted vigorous public policy debate and a great deal of new research on the causes of the upturn in self-employment, whether the revival had similar characteristics across all industrialized countries, the role of public policy (on unemployment, on taxes, on state benefits, and on promoting an enterprise culture), and on the characteristics of the new entrepreneurs ( OECD, 1986, 1992; Curran, 1986; Hakim, 1988b; Steinmetz and Wright, 1989; Storey, 1994). The new research programme on self-employment and the enterprise culture drew contributions from labour economists, labour sociologists, labour lawyers and psychologists, from specialists in management, industrial relations, banking and finance, as reflected in the contributions to edited collections ( Stanworth, Westrip, and Watkins, 1982; Watkins, Stanworth, and Westrip, 1982; Lewis, Stanworth, and Gibb, 1984; Curran, Stanworth, and Watkins, 1986) and in numerous reviews ( Curran, 1986; Hakim, 1988b; Storey, 1994). This made for a rich research literature ( Stanworth and Curran, 1976; Scase and Goffee, 1980, 1981, 1982; Curran and Burrows, 1986, 1987, 1988; Meager, 1991, 1992; Meager, Court, and Moralee, 1994; Stanworth and Stanworth, 1995, 1997; Bryson and White, 1996a, 1996b). It also meant that contributors were often addressing quite different questions, only loosely linked to each other.
In Britain the total number of self-employed fell steadily until 1965, rose a little then fell again to a low of 1.9 million in 1977-8, then grew rapidly from 1979 to 1990, after which numbers stabilized, with some fluctuation, in the 1990s. Growth rates were largest in non-agricultural self-employment ( Hakim, 1987c, 1988b: 426). As a percentage of the workforce in employment, self-employment effectively doubled in the 1980s, from 7% in 1965 to 13% of the workforce by 1991. Growth was fastest among the solo self-