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Bernard Gazier

The Afterword questions the possibility that a new era of social dialogue is opening up in Europe. Self-employed professionals represent here a key stake, because they are skilled, they are mere workers and do not possess the traditional capital and assets of entrepreneurs, and they have been the most dynamic part of the workforce since the beginning of the century. They represent, in a context of enduring unemployment and precariousness in the European Union, one central way of developing employment and diversifying careers. However, they do not fit into the classical processes of social dialogue, which were devised and implemented for salaried workers many years ago. Starting from a traditional definition of social dialogue, and briefly showing the trends and challenges affecting it in the European union, the chapter considers the specific needs of these new workers, connected to the rich potential resources they could provide.

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Laura Beuker, François Pichault and Frédéric Naedenoen

Chapter 5 provides a comparative analysis of the country studies on self-employed professionals presented in Chapter 4, by explaining variances and convergences among European countries, and aspects of continuity or discontinuity with the past. A common cross-country feature is that self-employed workers benefit from weaker social rights than regular employees. Thus, the chapter tries to answer the question whether self-employed workers are going to receive better social protection. Three degrees of social protection for the self-employed are identified across Europe. However, in order to reach an appropriate understanding of the complex and fragmented dynamics occurring in the European labour market, the chapter suggests a multidimensional interpretative approach is appropriate. This has to combine structural dimensions (e.g. a regulatory framework, an industrial relations system, economic development, cultural openness vis-à-vis new work arrangements, socio-demographic characteristics) with agency factors (e.g. institutional entrepreneurship, strategies emanating from unions, quasi-unions and labour market intermediaries) and political reforms.

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Manuela Samek Lodovici, François Pichault and Renata Semenza

Chapter 7 takes up the most relevant results that emerged in the various contributions of the book and underlines that the rise in the share of self-employed professionals has not yet been accompanied by a structural revision of the regulatory framework. There is a lack of comprehensive reform design regarding legal recognition and regulation, social protection systems and industrial relation models, which still need to be adapted to the new emerging demands. The challenges posed by new employment trends ask for new tailored and focused policy responses to support the equal treatment of workers, whatever their status. Among the many options assessed in the recent debate, the adoption of a universal rights approach, whatever the status and employment relationship, appears the most appropriate to address current and future trends in employment patterns. Fair working and payment conditions, standardized access to social rights (e.g. maternity and parental leaves, health insurance, safety at work), professional recognition and lifelong learning should transcend employment status and relationships with particular employers.

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Anna Mori and Bas Koene

Chapter 6 focuses on the new forms of collective representation and organization by which self-employed professionals articulate and defend their interests. This is a specific topic in the broader debate on non-standard and precarious work. The deep analysis of innovative forms of collective interest representation, based on twenty-nine collective organizations investigated across Europe, provides a picture of the proliferation of new actors, bottom-up organizations, besides (or beyond) traditional unions, aimed at collectively representing this growing unorganized segment of the labour market. Three main organizational strategies have been identified: provision of services, as neo-mutual organizations; advocacy, lobbying and political roles; and coalition-building and new alliances in order to reinforce their legitimacy. A combination of strategies and the different capacity to create partnerships and coalitions characterize each national context or cluster of countries. These organizations have gradually become institutionalized, developing into relevant interlocutors in the public debate and in policymaking.

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David Marsden

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François Pichault and Renata Semenza

Chapter 1 contextualizes self-employment in a comparative perspective, explaining the reasons—economic and technological—that support in particular the growth of self-employed professionals, who offer highly qualified and specialized skills that perfectly respond to the needs of contemporary capitalism. The proliferation of these occupations, functional to the services economy, which deviate from traditional employment relationships, pose challenges to the systems of institutional regulation of labour, welfare and collective representation. The chapter deals with the topic of the individual dimensions of autonomy at work (legal status, work content and working conditions), and addresses the issue of how work autonomy is governed in different European national contexts. It emphasizes the importance of understanding in which institutional settings professionals develop their activities and where they may find policy responses to emerging needs for social protection and collective representation. The last part of the chapter is dedicated to describing the structure of the book, presenting a summary of the content of each of the chapters.

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Renata Semenza and Anna Mori

Chapter 2 tackles the topic of the new forms of self-employment as a theoretical matter, in the light of their extraordinary increase in European economies. Considering first the drivers of this growth in the majority of countries, it then provides some interpretations of the way in which self-employment is challenging the solid theories of labour market dualization (insider–outsider divide) and the contraposition between dependent and autonomous work. Moreover, the chapter explains why self-employment is becoming the typical work model for the digital economy and how a paradox is occurring between the resistance of a model of professionalism, both in the market and in companies and, contemporaneously, the loss of social status of these professionals. High levels of education and professional specialization are no longer a guarantee of high levels of income and social status and this has repercussions on class structure. Within this theoretical framework, the second part of the chapter considers the multiple institutional dilemmas that governments and the European Union are called to face, with respect to the ambiguity of self-employed professionals’ legal status and the weakness of social protection.

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Laura Beuker, Paolo Borghi, Marie-Christine Bureau, Antonella Corsani, Bernard Gazier, Alejandro Godino, Bas Koene, Antonio Martín-Artiles, Oscar Molina, Anna Mori, Frédéric Naedenoen, Maria Norbäck, Klemen Širok, Maylin Stanic and Lars Walter

Chapter 4 presents an overview of the various regulatory and legal frameworks around self-employed workers, the main institutional arrangements and a state of the art examination of social dialogue in each country case study. Nine European countries are covered (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK), embodying different welfare state regimes and diverse models of labour market and profession regulation. The country studies present the same structure, which includes an analysis of the institutional framework, the public policies supporting self-employment and the emergent and innovative strategies of collective representation. The picture that emerges from the country studies is small reforms at the margin and great fragmentation of the measures implemented, accompanied by institutional experimentalism and some innovative strategies of collective representation, carried out by new actors in the industrial relations arena.

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Anna Soru, Elena Sinibaldi and Cristina Zanni

After constructing the empirical basis and conceptual definitions of a preliminary quantitative analysis on the total self-employed population (using Eurostat data), Chapter 3 presents the original results of an international web survey, which explores the socio-economic characteristics, professional status, expectations and perceived needs of self-employed professionals. As part of the growth of contingent work, the overall picture that emerges from the data analysis shows a population with clearly identifiable characteristics: typical urban population, variable working time and strong diffusion of multiple jobs. A strong orientation towards autonomy in work emerges, but the majority of the survey respondents in each of the nine European countries considered state that their annual income level is low. Low pay is one of the three main problems they face, along with a perception of vulnerability in respect to social risks (e.g. unemployment, future pension benefits, illness, maternity) and a vacuum of collective representation.

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Bryan Sanderson