Accueil » 59-2 ( 2004) » Le passage au travail autonome : choix imposé ou choix qui s’impose ?

Le passage au travail autonome : choix imposé ou choix qui s’impose ?

André Beaucage, Normand Laplante et Renée Légaré


Inspirés par les explications « pull » et « push » de la résurgence du travail autonome dans les années 1980 et 1990, nous proposons un modèle inédit de l’entrée dans le travail autonome et une évaluation de sa pertinence à partir des résultats d’une enquête originale via l’Internet auprès de 748 travailleurs autonomes québécois. La principale hypothèse de notre modèle propose que le passage au travail autonome découle le plus souvent d’une décision motivée à la fois par des aspirations personnelles et professionnelles spécifiques et par des conditions d’emploi précaires ou insatisfaisantes. Les résultats de notre étude exploratoire confirment la pertinence de notre hypothèse quant à l’influence combinée des facteurs « push » et « pull » sur la décision d’entrer dans le travail autonome. Elle révèle néanmoins des différences significatives entre les déterminants des décisions des hommes et des femmes.


The Shift to Self-Employment: An Imposed Choice or an Obvious Choice?

In Canada, in Quebec, and in most industrialized countries, self-employment showed more rapid growth during the 1980s and 1990s than did full-time, salaried employment. The authors wonder how it is possible to explain the strong growth of this employment status, especially in the case of self-employed without employees, bearing in mind the fewer benefits and lower remuneration for those in this largest category of self-employed workers. Is this increased transition to self-employment a free choice which is also an obvious one for workers having a different set of goals, or rather is it a choice that was imposed by the worsening of conditions on the labour market?

Based on the “pull” and “push” explanations for the resurgence of self-employment, the authors propose a previously unpublished model for the transition to this employment status, and then an evaluation of this model’s relevance, beginning with an original Internet investigation involving 748 Quebec self-employed workers. The main hypothesis of the authors’ model suggests that the choice of self-employment is, most often, the result of both personal goals and of precarious or unsatisfactory working conditions. The results of their exploratory study confirm the relevance of this hypothesis as regards the combined influence of “push” and “pull” factors and suggest that is not very appropriate to describe the transitions towards self-employment in Quebec as voluntary or as involuntary. Instead, the results point out the complexity of the motivations and of the circumstances leading up to this decision.

Regression analysis clearly show the relevance of several hypothesis which underlie the models studied, and also the relevance of several vectors of variables used to verify these hypotheses. The model that takes into account prior workplace experience seems to be the most convincing and more clearly explains the more or less voluntary nature of the decision to choose self-employment. This prior experience has the greatest impact on early nature of the decision to join the ranks of the self-employed, as do several career anchors. These career goals as well as an individual’s status and working conditions prior to the transition to self-employment appear as the vectors of variables that contribute the most to explaining the more or less voluntary nature of the decision to opt for this atypical employment status. Responsibility for young children also plays a role in the same way. However, the effect of human capital on the voluntary nature of the decision to become self-employed is significant, but the opposite of what was predicted.

The results of the empirical analysis reveal that the determinants of the more or less voluntary entry of women into self-employment are significantly different from those of men. For men, human capital, and status prior to self-employment explain twice as great a proportion of the dependent variable than is the case for women. The impact of prior status on the degree of voluntarism of entry into self-employment corresponds quite well to our model’s hypothesis, notably in the case of men. Unemployment, a part-time or temporary job, or work experience involving a poor working climate and limited possibilities for advancement give rise to a more involuntary transition towards self-employment. For women, whose work experience is generally more limited, the results obtained are different. Prior experience in a part-time or temporary job is usually associated with voluntary entry into self-employment.

For the latter, career goals and access to the revenue from a spouse, or from family or from government assistance stand out as the main determinants. The career goal vector accounts for a 50%–80% greater proportion of the dependant variable than it does in the case of males, while access to other revenues does not have a significant impact on accounting for decisions made by men. If, in both cases, the autonomy anchor is associated with a more voluntary transition to self-employment, and the professional and personal security anchor is associated with a more involuntary transition, the voluntary nature of women’s decisions will be also increased by the variety-creativity anchor and the service anchor, and lessened by the technical competencies anchor, while, for men, only managerial competencies anchor will have an additional positive impact on their decision.

This study of more or less voluntary passages to self-employment is exploratory due to the specific and original nature of its inquiry and also because of the dependant variable that was selected. The methodology has certain limits, which call for a careful and cautious interpretation of results and encourage the undertaking of other complementary studies to confirm or invalidate the results obtained. Longitudinal studies of the transitions into and then out of self-employment should allow us to better understand the circumstances as well as the characteristics of those who live this experience. This type of study is based on the results of worker decisions, and not on their retrospective evaluations of the reasons behind these decisions; as well, this type of study has the advantage of considering not only those who persevere in self-employment, but also those who leave this type of employment early on.


El pase al trabajo autonomo : opción impuesta u opción que se impone?

Inspirados por las explicaciones “pull” y “push” de la resurgencia del trabajo autónomo durante los años 1980 y 1990, proponemos aquí un modelo inédito del inicio en el trabajo autónomo y una evaluación de su pertinencia a partir de resultados de una encuesta original realizada vía Internet con 748 trabajadores autónomos quebequenses. La hipótesis principal de nuestro modelo propone que el pase al trabajo autónomo proviene mas frecuentemente de una decisión motivada al mismo tiempo por aspiraciones personales y profesionales especificas y por condiciones de empleo precarias o insatisfactorias. Los resultados de nuestro estudio exploratorio confirman la pertinencia de nuestra hipótesis respecto a la influencia combinada de factores “push” y “pull” en la decisión de iniciarse en el trabajo autónomo. Esto revela sin embargo diferencias significativas entre hombres y mujeres en cuanto a los factores determinantes de las decisiones.