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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 12: The matter of representation: precarious self-employment and interest organizations

Giedo Jansen and Roderick Sluiter


This chapter investigates membership of interest organizations through the lens of precarious self-employment. First, we aim to identity different ‘types’ of self-employment based on their degree of precariousness. Based on a Latent Class Analysis we construct a four-category typology of solo self-employment (i.e., secure traditional / precarity-prone traditional / secure professional / precarity-prone professional). Second, we study whether these different types of self-employed workers have diverging expectations of interest organizations, and/or diverging membership patterns. We use insider-outsider theory to formulate hypotheses on whether precarity-prone self-employed relative to more secure self-employed are organized differently – if they are organized at all. The hypotheses are tested using survey data from the Netherlands. We conclude that the most notable group of self-employed are the precarity-prone professionals, who are not only most likely to deviate from traditional patterns of interest representations, but also most willing to join a trade union.

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