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The Disraeli Room

Blog Post

Self-Employment in the European Union

22nd May 2015

The UK is not alone in it’s citizens aspiring to secure their futures, and finances, through self-employment and entrepreneurship. Here in Poland, and across the European Union, individuals want to work for themselves, increasingly need to create their own work and are searching out ways of circumventing the shrinking labour markets and constructing their own platforms to enter it through. In short, they want to be their own boss. This is why a strategic partnership, of organisations from 6 countries, is working out ways to help individuals at a grassroots level to build these platforms.

The Be Your Own Boss consortium is led by Bridging To The Future from the UK and consists of a mixture of universities, business incubators, international charities and private companies from Spain, Bulgaria, Italy, Poland and the Netherlands. The project aims to create a support structure for individuals to create their own jobs through. The consortium is only 6 months old and in this time they have delved in to the state of self employment within their countries to produce a snapshot, and launchpad, for how the consortium can best help Europe’s citizens achieve economic independence.

  • This snapshot, or state of the art, has revealed a strikingly similar picture of the state of self-employment, and strategic support for it, in all 6 countries despite very different economic scenarios existing in each. Some of the key findings here, for all countries, include:
  • The rise of self-employed individuals has happened at virtually the same rate over the last few years (although the UK’s was fastest)
  • Self-Employment is a male dominated realm – with an average ratio of 2:1 men to women who are their own boss
  • The majority of self-employed are between 25-49 and they work largely in the same industries – service, consultancy, construction, etc.
  • The lack of access to finance, willingness to fail and tax laws were also common reasons in all countries for individuals not pursuing self-employment.
  • This paints a picture of citizens across Europe approaching work, and self-employment, in a similar way regardless of the socio-economic and cultural differences within their country.

The most striking conclusion from the report, and where supporting grassroots economic independence finds its opportunity, is the lack of strategic focus on growing entrepreneurship in all of the countries. Where support for entrepreneurship and self-employment is found (even in the UK) it is in the form of loans or group specific support – such as grants for young people to start-up. The lack of practical, sustained, expert coaching to support new entities and the self employed is very apparent. This lack of support devalues the power of giving all individuals at a local level the ability to construct their own economic futures. It in fact reflects a top-down approach which views entrepreneurship as a tool to help people with, rather than a platform for people to help themselves through. There needs to be clear enabling programmes rather than warm words about empowerment.

This conclusion provides a driver and opportunity for the BYOB consortium. It sharpens their focus on creating a platform and pathway to economic independence which any individual can follow. Irrespective of their socio-economic circumstances, cultural backgrounds, personal scenarios or linguistic contexts. Through putting grassroots job creation at the heart of this platform the BYOB consortium hopes to change the lives of hundreds of people across the continent.

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