Duration: September 2013 until September 2016


The research project:

Recent decades show an increase in the number and share of self-employed without personnel in several European countries. This research project aims to provide evidence based insights with respect to the advantages and risks of the growth of the number of self-employed in Germany and the Netherlands. In order to realise this aim we will try to answer the following research questions:

  1. How has the number of self-employed and the share of self-employment evolved in Europe and more in particular in the two countries of our study? How can the group of self-employed without personnel be characterised in terms of age, gender, education, branch of industry/occupation, region and other characteristics?

  2. What is the position in the two countries under study of self-employed without personnel in terms of the motives to become self-employed, their earnings, working hours (including peaks over the year), balance between work and family life, relation with clients and principals, relation with colleagues/competitors, labour market opportunities, satisfaction, stability and security (insurance in case of lack of work or disability), employability, future prospects, pensions and representation? What are the advantages and problems related to self-employment according to the self-employed? How do they appreciate potential solutions to these problems?

  3. What is the legal and institutional position of self-employed without personnel in the two countries (as such and compared to the position of employees and other economic actors)?

  4. How do relevant policy makers/advisors, including union representatives and representatives from employers’ organisations in the two countries and at the EU-level look at the growth and position of self-employed in Europe? Which measures do they see fit to improve the position of self-employed without personnel (materially and in terms of representation)? Can the two countries involved or can Europe as a whole learn from the developments concerning self-employed and the policy responses in the two countries under study?


    These research questions will be answered using a multi-method and multidisciplinary approach, including desk research aimed at providing an overview of existing scientific insights, analyses using existing statistical data, survey research among self-employed without personnel in the two countries under study, analyses of legal documents and interviews and focus group meetings. The results of the project will be made available to unions, governments, policy makers, the scientific world and to the solo self-employed.