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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 7: Precariousness and social risks among solo self-employed in Germany and the Netherlands

Wieteke Conen and Maarten Debets


The Netherlands is among the European countries with the largest increase in solo self-employment, whereas Germany has witnessed a much more moderate growth and recently even a decline. The chapter examines precariousness among solo self-employed in both countries and studies their behaviour and attitudes towards social risk. We use both unique comparative survey data and qualitative interviews. The question is addressed how solo self-employed deal with their insecure position. The findings indicate that financial resilience, social protection and (perceived) work uncertainty are often largely influenced by extant other sources of income (such as financial back-up) or expected sources of income (e.g. inheritance), which the self-employed take into account in their decision-making. Although some groups have adequately and ‘traditionally’ taken care of social risks and some have ‘alternative’ ways to deal with social risks, for a seemingly substantial group of solo self-employed social protection is a genuine sore point.

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