ALMOST one in four self-employed workers were already living in relative poverty before the coronavirus crisis threatened their livelihoods, a study suggests.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said the self-employed have far more to lose from having to stop work as a result of the imposition of measures aimed at slowing the pandemic.

The Chancellor is set to announce help for self-employed workers later on Thursday following growing calls for support.

The IFS said policies announced so far, including the Job Retention Scheme which pays 80% of a worker’s wages, have had a big impact, but there has been hardly any change for the self-employed.

Almost a million self-employed workers – around a fifth of the total – are in sectors hit by large falls in demand which will mostly shut as a result of social distancing, said the report.

A further 400,000 self-employed have a child under the age of 10, and no key workers or non-working adults in the family, the study suggested.

Around 800,000 self-employed construction workers may lose work, if they have not already, said the IFS.

Its research indicated that 23% of self-employed workers were in relative poverty in 2017-18, after deducting housing costs, compared with 11% of employees.

Helen Miller, deputy director at the IFS, said: “The self-employed are more exposed to the large falls in demand resulting from social distancing measures and more likely to be living in poverty than employees.

Many low-income self-employed workers will see their incomes bolstered by the temporary benefit increases, but they are currently getting a lot less protection than employees.

“It is right that the Government look at what more can be done for this group.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “Many self-employed people have been hit hard in the pocket by the coronavirus crisis and have been calling for proper protection of their incomes by the Government.

“The self-employed are no less entitled to support than other workers: as this research shows, they are more likely than other employees to be in poverty, and are more likely to have to take on childcare obligations.

“After days of delay and uncertainty the Government must announce a package today that can be delivered quickly, giving the self-employed the same level of security as other workers.”