The self-employed sector in Malaga has not only managed to survive during the pandemic but appears to have achieved a somewhat difficult feat: there are now nearly 6,000 more people on the Régimen Especial de Trabajadores Autónomos (RETA), the register of self-employed workers, in the province than there were two years ago, when the economy was doing well and the word 'coronavirus' had not yet become part of our normal vocabulary.
The latest figures from Social Security, which are for April this year, show that 123,974 workers in Malaga are self-employed. This is an increase of 5,855 compared with the same month in 2019, which is five per cent higher and puts Malaga at the top of the list of growth in self-employment in Spain. In fact, most other provinces have lost self-employed workers during the past two years. Nationally, there was a very slight increase, of 0.8 per cent. Only two other provinces have seen an increase of more than four per cent in people registered as self-employed in the past two years and they are also in Andalucía: Seville and Cadiz.
It is also striking to note that between April 2019 and April 2020 in Malaga, only 716 people de-registered themselves as self-employed.
Undoubtedly, during the state of alarm because of the pandemic, the financial assistance for those who were unable to continue working was a decisive factor in preventing many more doing the same, but even taking that into account it can be seen that more self-employed businesses closed in other provinces than in Malaga. The figures also show that between April 2020 and April this year, the province gained 6,571 self-employed workers, placing it above the level of registrations prior to the pandemic.
Profile of the self-employed
What is the average profile of someone who is self-employed in Malaga? According to a study carried out by the Institute of Statistics and Cartography of Andalucía (IECA), the average self-employed worker is a male aged 40, (the most common age range is between 40 and 50), who works in the services sector and pays the lowest amount of contribution for social security.
Self-employed workers do still tend to be mainly male: only 37 per cent of those registered in Malaga are women. The older the age group, the more pronounced this difference becomes: women represent 40 per cent of those under the age of 40, and the percentage drops to 33 per cent in the over-50s.
With regard to age, the figures show that seven out of every ten self-employed people in Malaga are over the age of 40. The most numerous age range is 40 to 50, accounting for 32 per cent of all those registered. People aged between 50 and 59 represent one quarter of the total, and 21 per cent are aged between 30 and 39. About 12 per cent are over 60 and only eight per cent are under the age of 30.
The minimum contribution
A recent proposal by the government to change the contribution system for self-employed workers has led to concern among this group, whose members normally pay the minimum rate of 286.15 euros a month. This applies to two-thirds of self-employed people in Malaga, who are paying the lowest possible rate.
If the new range of options which is being considered by the Ministry of Inclusion and Social Security comes into force, which would involve payments of between 90 and 1,220 euros a month, some of these self-employed workers would end up paying less (those whose income is less than 17,000 euros a year) while others, who earn more than that, will find themselves paying more.
The difficulties involved in setting up and running a business are reflected by the length of time they tend to last. About 42 per cent of professionals in Malaga who register with the Social Security as self-employed close their businesses within a year.
The survival rate for businesses set up by self-employed workers drops to 22 per cent after five years; in other words, eight out of every ten do not last long enough to celebrate the fifth anniversary of their business. The statistics also show that only 14 per cent are still going after ten years.