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Self-Employment as Precarious Work

A European Perspective

Wieteke Conen and Joop Schippers

Since the 1970s the long term decline in self-employment has slowed – and even reversed in some countries – and the prospect of ‘being your own boss’ is increasingly topical in the discourse of both the general public and within academia. Traditionally, self-employment has been associated with independent entrepreneurship, but increasingly it has become a form of precarious work. This book utilises evidence-based information to address both the current and future challenges of this trend as the nature of self-employment changes, as well as to demonstrate where, when and why self-employment has emerged as precarious work in Europe.
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Chapter 6: Micro-entrepreneurship and changing contours of work: towards precarious work relations? Empirical findings from Austria

Dieter Bögenhold, Andrea Klinglmair, Zulaicha Parastuty and Florian Kandutsch


The complex interaction of technological development, globalisation and socio-demographic change has accelerated a structural change in the economy, resulting in a changing working environment and new forms of employment. In the field of self-employment, an emerging trend can be observed towards one-person enterprises, which already represent more than 50 per cent of all Austrian companies. The primary aim of this chapter is to analyse the rationalities of these microenterprises based on an empirical online survey of one-person enterprises in Carinthia. We find that one-person entrepreneurs are mainly driven by motives like self-realisation or working without hierarchies. However, there are also one-person entrepreneurs who have been crowded out from the (dependent) labour market and are therefore driven by economic reasons (e.g. self-employment as an alternative to unemployment). This economically driven group of one-person enterprises is comparatively dissatisfied with their professional situation, is less optimistic regarding their entrepreneurial future, and generates lower incomes.

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