Policy Memos

The Development of Self-Employment in Russia

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Despite the important economic, social, and political roles the self-employed can potentially play in Russia's market transition process, little is known about the extent of self-employment, the composition of the self-employed (i.e., their demographic and social characteristics), their material standing, and attitudes. We can gain insight into these issues from two nationally-representative social surveys: the Survey of Employment, Income, and Attitudes in Russia, given to 4824 respondents in January-March 1998, and the Survey on Education, Inequality, and Social Change in Post-Soviet Russia, given to 4809 respondents in September-November 2000. Although selfemployment has grown relatively slowly, the self-employed have established a firm presence in the Russian workforce. Since 1994 they have represented 4.5% to 6.7% of those working outside agriculture (the standard point of reference, since the agricultural sector has distinct labor market conditions and employment patterns). Most self employed are engaged in "individual work activity" without hired employees. But both the individually self-employed and small employers report higher levels of income, subjective material satisfaction, and more support for market reforms than most or all other occupational groups. In Russia, as elsewhere, an individual's human capital, current employment status, and industry of employment all influence the odds that they will become self-employed. But unlike in other developed countries, younger Russians enter self-employment more frequently than older or middle-aged Russians. In the United States and Western Europe female self-employment rates gained on men's during the 1990s, but in Russia the "gender gap" in self-employment has shown no signs of shrinking. [...]

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About the author

Professor of Sociology
University of Wisconsin-Madison