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Survey of Single-Person Businesses 2019

Every three years, Suomen Yrittäjät conducts a Survey of Single-Person Businesses among its members who run single-person businesses. The results of the 2019 survey show that the service sector is clearly the most common among single-person businesses, with almost three out of four respondents saying they worked in this sector.

Operating as a sole trader is the most common business form, but the share of single-person entrepreneurs running a limited share company has risen in the past three years. Over half of the single-person business owners surveyed had a degree from a university or a university of applied sciences.

The appetite for growth among single-person business owners has remained high, with 67% of respondents saying they were seeking growth or aiming to grow as much as possible. The strongest desire for growth was seen among the under-35s: 90% of them said they were seeking growth. The desire for growth declines as the respondent groups’ age increases. The sector with the highest growth appetite is retail, where three out of four respondents are seeking growth. The weakest growth appetite is displayed by the building sector (62%), and this has declined from the last survey.

Single-person business owners say that networking with partners, launching new products or services, and hiring new staff are the most important means of growth.

The following factors emerged as the largest barriers to growth: inability to increase one’s own working time, the expense and risk of hiring employees, and how focused business operations were on the owner. Roughly a third of respondents said they had hired an employee at some stage of their company operations, and 12% said they had used temps.

Single-person business owners’ income level has remained on roughly the same level as in the previous survey: there has been a slight increase, but it is still low. Around half of all respondents said their gross monthly incomes were under €2,000.

Just over half of all respondents set their annual income for the purposes of the YEL entrepreneur’s pension insurance at under €13,000 a year. Only around a third of all respondents said they paid sufficiently high YEL contributions. Thirty-seven per cent of respondents said they invested to secure their future after entrepreneurship. Other methods highlighted were savings and voluntary additional pension schemes.

Only one in four respondents reported working an average of more than 50 hours a week. Only one in five reported taking four or more weeks of annual holiday. Working while ill is quite common, with only 26% of respondents not having worked because of illness in the past 12 months.

Coping divided single-person business owners almost in two. Forty-seven per cent responded that they had had faced no challenges in coping. On the other hand, just over half said that they had had faced challenges in coping. Of all respondents, 30% said that they had faced challenges in coping but had not sought help. Two-thirds of respondents had not set up any entrepreneur’s healthcare arrangements for themselves. However, about half of respondents hold private medical insurance.

Around a fifth of all respondents stated that they had a child aged under 12 in their families who had been born when the respondent was an entrepreneur. Of this group, 38% had not taken any parental leave. Twenty per cent of women had not taken maternity leave and 51% of men had not taken paternity leave. Around half of all parents said that parental leave did not have an effect on their business operations, and only 22% of respondents had completely interrupted their business operations. Thirty-two per cent of women said that their paternal leave had not had an effect on their business operations, while among men the same share was 59%. 

>> Read the Survey of Single-Person Businesses 2019 in Finnish 

The survey was compiled by Sectoral Manager Mika Hämeenniemi, Labour Market Affairs Manager Harri Hellstén and Communications Manager Eeva Ketvel.