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Renata Semenza

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Renata Semenza

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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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The Challenges of Self-Employment in Europe

Status, Social Protection and Collective Representation

Edited by Renata Semenza and François Pichault

This book aims at explaining the variance in legal status, working conditions, social protection and collective representation of self-employed professionals across Europe. Despite considerable diversity, the authors observe three strategic models of mobilisation: the provision of services; advocacy, lobbying and the political role; and the extension of collective bargaining. They highlight the new urgent challenges that have emerged including the implementation of universal social protection schemes, active labour market policies likely to support sustainable self-employment, and the renewal of social dialogue through bottom-up organisations to extend the collective representation of project-based professionals.
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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.