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Counting European freelancers

August 20

Freelancers are hard to define, but an estimate of self-employed European freelancers can be reached thanks to a great research report Exploring self-employment in the European Union by Eurofund (published 2017, updated 2021).

There were 32 million self-employed workers, full-time or part-time, within the EU workforce (14% out of 221.7 million). These were divided into five clusters:

  1. Stable own-account workers (8.3M)
  2. Small traders and farmers (8M)
  3. Employers (7.4M)
  4. Vulnerable (5.4M)
  5. Concealed (2.6M)

Stable own-account workers (3.8% of the EU workforce) seem to be a good approximation for freelancers:

“Nearly all like being self-employed and do not find it hard to bear the responsibility. The bargaining power of the self-employed in this cluster is strong, as they are very likely to have more than one client (93%) and can easily find new ones. … Almost 90% are able to take time off at short notice for private matters.” (abridged)

However, most represented there are Shopkeepers (3.8%), Hairdressers (3.6%), Domestic cleaners and helpers (3.6%), and other professions who are not likely to identify as freelancers. Luckily, the report also states that 9% of the self-employed (1.2% of the EU workforce) identified as doing freelance work.

Conclusion: The number of self-employed freelancers can be estimated roughly between 1.2% and 3.8% of EU workforce.

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