Independent professionals driving Europe’s employment revolution

For European Freelancers Week (17-23 October), IPSE looks at the rise of freelancing across the continent

We know freelancing is on the rise in the UK. But is it as popular in Europe? Research suggests that the answer appears to be, yes.

Here are a few headlines figures on the rise of freelancing across the continent:

The number of independent professionals, commonly referred to as freelancers, in the EU-28 rose by a quarter (24%) from 7.7 million to 9.6 million between 2008 and 2015. It’s a huge number.

The largest number of new freelancers are in Western Europe – specifically the UK, France and the Netherlands – which between them saw 1.2 million more people launch a solo business in the seven years to 2015.

However, this growth is not confined to the largest EU Members. Freelancing is gaining popularity fastest in some newer Member States, with almost 200 per cent more people freelancing in Latvia in 2015 than 2008, and more than twice as many in Romania and Slovenia.

This is good news for the global economy; previous IPSE research has shown that freelancers contributed £109 billion in 2015 to the UK economy alone.

The trend towards freelancing is in spite of a stagnant labour market. By contrast, the EU workforce as a whole decreased in size from 223 million in 2008 to 218 million in 2015.

A significant number of the new arrivals are women and older workers, reflecting a change of attitude among those who may not historically have been drawn to independent working. A million more women chose to work independently between 2008 and 2015 – compared to 900,000 additional men.

Europe is experiencing a surge in independent working and the trend is only going in one direction. The future of work is here. And this week, it’s being celebrated.  

You can check out what’s happening during European Freelancers Week here.

Research, Productivity, Policy

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