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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 10: Precariousness among older self-employed workers in Europe

Wieteke Conen


Self-employment among older workers is diverse. Some have been self-employed much or all of their working lives, while others make the transition into self-employment after age 50 or as part of a transition into retirement. This chapter examines motives and transition moments for older workers to become self-employed and studies precariousness among older self-employed workers between 50 and 80 years of age. The question is addressed who works beyond state pension age and why. The findings in this chapter support earlier findings that relatively privileged workers, including self-employed, tend to work beyond state pension age. However, the findings also indicate that while on the one hand employees are for the most relatively protected against the necessity to extend working life beyond state pension age, on the other hand self-employed may more often have to continue working because of financial precariousness and despite poor physical conditions.

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