Publication Date



In recent years, practices such as outsourcing and contracting-out have increasingly blurred the boundaries between dependent employment and self-employment. A new group of workers has emerged, which comprises workers who are formally ‘self-employed’, but present some characteristics of employees.

These ‘economically dependent workers’ usually have a commercial contract (or ‘service contract’) rather than an employment contract; they are therefore registered as self-employed when in reality their working conditions have a lot in common with those of employees.

This development makes it difficult to distinguish (within those who are registered as self-employed) between people who are really self-employed and running their own business, and people who for example depend on a single employer for their income and thus have no real autonomy in running their ‘business’.

The purpose of this short exploratory paper is to investigate the position of these economically dependent workers and to find out whether overall their working conditions are more similar to those of the self-employed or to those of employees. This exercise builds on data from the 2010 wave of the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS).


Suggested Citation
European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. (2013). Self-employed or not self-employed? Working conditions of ‘economically dependent workers’. Dublin: Author.