A new report by Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency, shows that 30.6 million people aged 15 to 64 in the EU were self-employed in 2016, in jobs ranging from motorcycle repair to forestry.
Self-employed people accounted for 14% of total employment in the bloc in 2016. That’s a slight rise from the beginning of 2015, when the number was 30.3 million. Among under-25s, there was an increase in the same period from 77,300 to 90,000.
In 2016, two out of three self-employed people were men (67%), more than half (55%) were aged 45 or over, about a third (35%) had completed tertiary education, and seven in 10 (71%) were own-account owners, meaning they do not employ anyone else.
The highest proportion of self-employment is found in Greece, where almost one in three working people is their own boss. In Italy the figure is one in five (21%), with Poland counting 18%. Of the Member States where self-employment is less popular, Eurostat figures show that Denmark has the lowest popularity at just 8%, while Germany, Estonia, Luxembourg and Sweden all have 9%. The EU average is 14%.
Looking at the figures by sector, wholesale and retail trade and motor vehicle repair accounted for 4.8 million people, or 16% of all self-employed people in the EU in 2016. The next most popular sector was agriculture, forestry and fishing, with 4.4 million, or 14%, while construction (3.9 million, 13%) and professional, scientific and technical activities (3.7 million, 12%) were also popular with freelance workers.
In some countries, EURES can help connect self employed persons from any country in the EU, with employers looking for a range of skills and talents! Hanna-Maria, a freelance opera singer from Malmö, south of Sweden, knows this first hand. When she decided that she needed a new challenge she wasted no time in seeking help from her local EURES Adviser to secure an audition in Hamburg with the help of ZAV. Since then, she has never looked back.
“I have a very positive impression of my EURES experience. I have spoken with other colleagues who also are freelance opera singers and that have had good experiences with EURES. I would really like to find an opportunity in Germany. There are many more opera houses there than in Sweden, and indeed many other European countries”.
Hanna-Maria studied German for three years so she can speak a little, and would probably improve rapidly if she moved there. One thing for sure is that she can already sing in German and thoroughly enjoys the local and sector expert help she receives as a self employed professional!.
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- Publication date
- 13 December 2017
- European Labour Authority | Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
- Business / EntrepreneurshipLabour market news / mobility newsNews/reports/statisticsYouth
- Related section(s)
- Living and Working
- Accomodation and food service activitiesActivities of extraterritorial organisations and bodiesActivities of households as employers, undifferentiated goods- and servicesAdministrative and support service activitiesAgriculture, forestry and fishingArts, entertainment and recreationConstructionEducationElectricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supplyFinancial and insurance activitiesHuman health and social work activitiesInformation and communicationManufacturingMining and quarryingOther service activitiesProfessional, scientific and technical activitiesPublic administration and defence; compulsory social securityReal estate activitiesTransportation and storageWater supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activitiesWholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles