Back To Top

Number of Korea’s self-employed fourth-highest in OECD

The number of self-employed South Koreans who run businesses without any employees is the fourth-largest among the world’s major nations, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on Sunday.

According to the OECD’s Entrepreneurship at a Glance 2017 report, the number of self-employed workers in Korea was 3.98 million, the fourth-highest among all 35 OECD member countries as well as Lithuania, Romania and South Africa.

The country’s number of self-employed workers is considered to be relatively high considering the population size of Korea is roughly 50 million, the 27th-largest in the world.


The United States had the largest number of self-employed workers with a total of 9.82 million, followed by Mexico at 9.77 million. Turkey ranked No. 3 with 4.1 million self-employed CEOs. The remaining countries in the top 10 were made up of European nations including the UK, Italy, Poland, Germany, Spain and France.

Among Asian nations, Korea’s neighboring Japan ranked No. 21 with 397,000.

By gender, the number of Korean self-employed men was 2.77 million, once again coming in fourth after the US, Mexico and Turkey. The number of self-employed female CEOs was also the OECD’s fourth-highest at 1.21 million.

Despite the country’s high number of self-employed CEOs among the world’s leading economic nations, according to data released by the OECD last month, the rate of labor force participation for young Koreans last year ranked near the bottom among the organization’s member nations.

The OECD’s data showed that the labor force participation rate -- people who are either employed or actively looking for employment -- for Koreans between the ages of 25 and 29 was 76.7 percent last year. Korea tied with Chile for the No. 31 spot out of 35 countries.

In contrast, the nation’s senior citizens work force participation ranked among the OECD’s highest. The labor force participation rate for Koreans aged 65 and older reached 31.5 percent last year, the second-highest among all OECD members and more than double the OECD average of 14.5 percent for the age group.

By Julie Jackson (
Korea Herald Youtube