In the first quarter of 2017 self-employed people made up 15% of the workforce in EU Member States.
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Some people choose self-employment as it can provide flexibility and a better work-life balance, however, it can also result in unpredictable or irregular working hours, as well as the lack of job security and sufficient access to social protection, all factors which can severely impinge on the work-life balance of self-employed workers, and particularly self-employed women. Promoting entrepreneurship and self-employment is crucial to achieving smart sustainable growth across Europe. An important contributing factor to achieving this is ensuring that self-employed individuals can reconcile professional and family responsibilities.
In April 2017, the Commission adopted the Work-Life balance Initiative, a key deliverable of the European Pillar of Social Rights. The main objective of the initiative is to address women’s underrepresentation in the labour market. The initiative includes a proposal for a Directive on work-life balance for parents and carers, targeting all workers who have an employment contract or an employment relationship. This being a minimum standard, it is left up to the Member States to decide whether to broaden the scope of the Directive to cover the self-employed.
In addition, under the framework of the European Social Pillar of Social Rights, the Commission has launched a first phase consultation with social partners on access to social protection for workers in non-standard employment and for the self-employed. The Peer Review discussed policy approaches and measures to help self-employed people to reconcile family life and entrepreneurship/self-employment and was held in Brussels. The Belgian Government considers the promotion of self-employment as an important driver for economic growth and job creation.
Host country: Belgium
Date: 20-21 June 2017
Peer countries: Estonia – Germany – Ireland – Italy – The Netherlands – Spain - Sweden
Key learning elements
- Forms of employment are becoming increasingly complex and differences between self-employment and wage employment are blurred. There is also an increasing trend for the employment history of individuals to include periods of both self-employment and wage employment. This may impact on the social protection of such individuals, as well as their families.
- There is a wide variety in social protection systems across countries, but generally the trend shows a growing gap in access to social protection for the self-employed.
- Flexibility needs to be introduced into the use of social protection systems and take-up of leave, so as to allow individuals to move in and out of self-employment/employee status and to facilitate reconciliation of professional and family life.
- Transferability needs to be allowed in terms of built up rights such as pension entitlements. This could increase labour market flexibility.
- Access to information on entitlements to social protection could be improved through awareness raising activities and better use of modern technology (e.g. social benefit calculators) so that individuals can make more informed choices.
- Tackling these work-life challenges require a joined-up and integrated approach, bringing together different ministries and policy areas as well as different levels of governance.
- Further monitoring and evaluation of existing measures is needed so that information on their impact can inform policy decisions.
The views expressed in the Flash reports are purely those of the writer and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commission.