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Paolo Borghi and Annalisa Murgia

The chapter deals with the ambiguous condition of independent professionals entrapped between a growing insecurity and the desire to experiment their professional freedom. In the first part of the chapter the outline of a changing landscape of self-employment in Italy – with a focus on independent professionals – is provided by offering a historical overview, an analysis of the main labour reforms, and a statistical portrait. In the second part, based on a qualitative secondary analysis, four relevant characteristics of independent professionals are highlighted: the growing difficulty in defining successful professional careers; the ambivalence of autonomy that can lead to self-exploitation; the social protection gap in comparison with employees; the new interests of traditional and emerging organisations dealing with their collective representation. The risks connected to the ambivalent condition of being ‘precariously free’ are a challenge both for the new generation of independent professionals and for the organisational and institutional actors aimed at regulating and protecting this category of workers.

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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.