World Facts

10 Countries With The Highest Rates Of Self-Employment

For many, self-employment is both a blessing and a curse, and a world filled with prospects of high risk and high returns.

When an individual works for himself or herself to earn household income and does not work for another person or company, this is self-employment. Many people consider this the ultimate dream come true, and they strive to prove their ability to self-manage, set personal schedules and create a work-life balance. However, self-employment may be indicative of less than ideal economic conditions. Several countries have a particularly high rate of self-employment. Typically, high self-employment rates are evidence of lower per-capita income and denote stagnant or declining economies. The countries with the top ten rates of self-employment are detailed below.

Countries with the Highest Rates of Self-Employment


Paraguay has the highest self-employment rate in the world with nearly half, 44%, of its labor force identifying as such. Self-employment numbers include agriculture and farm work which is the top economic activity in Paraguay. This fact helps explain why the rate is so high.


The second highest rates of self-employment come from Iran. Thirty-nine percent of its people are self-employed. With an unemployment rate of 10%, it is not surprising that Iranians have looked for other income generating ideas.


Third on the list is Greece at 36% self-employment. This rate significantly increased after the most recent economic recession. The majority of these people work in agriculture, hunting, and forestry.


After Greece is Turkey with a 33.9% self-employment rate. This percentage corresponds to the agricultural sector which accounts for 29.5% of employment.


Number 5 on the list is Panama located in Central America, where 32.7% of the working population is self-employed. This is due to a large, informal sector in the economy. This is exactly the same rate as the 6th highest country for self-employment: Moldova. Moldova is the poorest European nation. The high rate here reflects the dependence on agriculture but also, forestry and fishing.


Romania, another poor European country relative to its neighbors further west, is on the list in the seventh position. Here, 32.1% of the population is self-employed. The majority of these individuals work in agriculture.


Algeria reports 27.5% of the population working under self-employment conditions. Nearly half of these individuals are women, an interesting distinction when compared to other countries. Despite an active hydrocarbons industry, unemployment rates are consistently above 10% here.


Nearing the end of the list is Macedonia. The ninth top ranking country has a self-employment rate of 26.7%. Around one-third of the population is unemployed which is often a driving force behind self-employment. They do have an increasingly active mining industry.


Malaysia is at the bottom spot of the top ten list, but still has a quarter of its population self-employed. The exact rate is 24.9%. This country has a slightly more developed economic industry which has allowed for lower self-employment rates.

Implications of High Self-Employment Rates

The impacts of high self-employment rates are many. It signals a failing and underdeveloped economy. Individuals who choose self-employment seem to do so to cope with the poor economy and the ensuing increase in unemployment, thus suggesting self-employment could be a temporary relief. As countries move away from agriculture and expand in advanced technology industries, self-employment rates tend to decline. In the meantime, governments could take advantage of its economy boosting potential by including educational and training programs as part of economic policy and planning.

10 Countries With The Highest Rates Of Self-Employment

RankCountry% Self-Employed Relative to All Employed Persons

More in World Facts