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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 11: Migrant self-employment in Germany: on the risks, characteristics and determinants of precarious work

Stefan Berwing, Andrew Isaak and René Leicht


There has been a long-standing debate among scholars about the nature of migrant self-employment. A popular assumption of the narrative is that migrants are forced into low-wage sectors with poor working conditions due to a lack of resources and opportunities. Here, we study the extent and determinants of precarious self-employment in Germany as well as which types of fields and occupations are most affected by precarious working conditions. To answer these questions, we develop an indicator to operationalize precarious self-employment using the 2011 German Microcensus. Quantitative analysis reveals that while migrants are more frequently engaged in precarious self-employment in absolute terms, this difference does not reach statistical significance. However, we do find clear differences for the sector of economic activity and profession, which can be interpreted as endowment effects. Overall, our results tend towards debunking the assumption that equates migrant self-employment in Germany to precarious work.

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