Employment and working conditions have a powerful influence on health and health equity in working populations. In contemporary debates self-employment is often advocated as a way to create new jobs and to enhance economic growth. Also, self-employment is suggested to be an option for the unemployed and other vulnerable groups to get a footing in the labor market. Thus, while there seems to be rather high expectations on self-employment to contribute to the solution of several labor market issues, less is known about the health effects of such employment.

Basic information

Project manager: Susanna Toivanen
Period: 2013-01-01 – 2015-12-31
Funded by: Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS)

There is a long-term and profound scientific research into employees’ work and health, but there are fewer studies about the circumstances that influence self-employed persons’ working conditions and health. On one hand, the self-employed tend to report higher levels of job and life satisfaction than employees. On the other hand, the self-employed tend to work more, have shorter vacations, and are not able to take sick leave to the same extent as employees. The size of the enterprise certainly has an influence on the work environment and the variety of tasks. Such differences in working conditions may contribute to health differentials among the self-employed, or between self-employed and employees. Moreover, it is plausible that there are health differentials by gender, age, country of birth, or educational level among the self-employed across different industries.

The project focuses on self-employed that run small enterprises (< 50 employees). As there are fewer young persons and foreign born women engaged in self-employment, this project applies an intersectional perspective when analyzing self-employed persons’ work and health, taking industry, age, gender, country of birth, and level of education into account simultaneously in order to grasp the complexity of the issue. Based on analyses of Swedish register and survey data as well as interviews, the project is conducted in terms of 3 interrelated sub-projects:
(1) Mortality differences between self-employed and employees in Sweden
(2) Size of the enterprise, work environment and health in self-employed in Sweden
(3) What does it mean to be self-employed in Sweden with a focus on health?

Project members
Associate Professor Susanna Toivanen (CHESS)
Associate Professor Pernilla Andersson Joona (SOFI/SU)
PhD Christin Mellner (National Board of Health and Welfare)
Professor Mikael Nordenmark (IHV ÖSD/MIUN)
Associate Professor Stig Vinberg (IHV ÖSD/MIUN)