Being self-employed seems attractive, but is it doable financially?

Twelve percent of all Dutch workers, or 1.2 million people, made their primary source of income from self-employment in 2022. In 2013, that amounted to 11%, or a rise of 282,000 in ten years, according to Statistics Netherlands. Despite the rise in self-employment, there may be some drawbacks, particularly for the self-employed in healthcare, as reported by newspaper De Telegraaf.

In discussing the reasons as to why some people choose self-employment, the paper notes: ‘It is very important thatpeople want more control over employment. When do I work? Where do I work from? People want more autonomy.’ Echoing this, Statistics Netherlands noted that in 2023, self-employed business owners without staff (zzp’ers) whoworked in the healthcare and welfare sectors most frequently cited their desire to have flexibility over the amount and timing of their work as a motivator. Statistics Netherlands based its data on the recently completed Self-EmployedSurvey, which is conducted as part of the Labour Market Care and Welfare (AZW) study program. StatisticsNetherlands observes that the most commonly mentioned motivation for becoming self-employed, according to both men and women (46 and 40%), is the freedom to choose when and how much to work. The ability to better balance work and personal life was cited most frequently by women (29%), although men were more likely to mention being able to earn more (25%).

Self-employment in various sectors
Those that primarily provide their own labour or services make up the largest category of self-employed individuals,according to Statistics Netherlands. The institution observed that in 2022, there were 181,000 independent contractors that primarily sold goods or provided raw materials. In practically every industry, the percentage ofindependent contractors has grown in recent years. The rental and other business services sector saw the biggest increase, with 15% of all workers in that area self-employed. In addition, the percentage of self-employed workersgrew significantly above average in other services, culture, sports and leisure. The percentage of individualsworking for themselves decreased especially in the fields of forestry, fishing and agriculture.

According to Statistics Netherlands, the Labour Force Survey (EBB) estimates that 178.000 workers in the healthcare and welfare industries worked for themselves in 2022, an increase from the previous year. The largest group consisted of self-employed people without staff (75%). Women made up 75% of self-employed workers and81% of all healthcare and welfare workers.

Financial matters in the healthcare and welfare sectors
The great majority (94%) of self-employed individuals in the healthcare and welfare sectors previously held a position as an employee, either inside or outside the industry, or they worked as employees in addition to their self-employment, Statistics Netherlands highlights.

The institution found that over 9% of all self-employed workers in the welfare and healthcare sectors said they would rather be an employee. Of self-employed individuals, general practitioners and health clinics had the highest percentage (15%) of those who would like to work as employees. At 14%, this was also comparatively prevalent in social work and mental health care. The two factors they most frequently cite as justifications are increased social and financial security.

Self-employed persons put in an average of 32 hours a week at work, Statistics Netherlands observed. Childcareproviders are among the self-employed individuals who put in the highest hours per week – nearly 42 hours on average. Over 35 hours, or 85% of a self-employed person’s workweek, were billable in the childcare industry. This is greater than the 75% average for all self-employed individuals in the healthcare and welfare sectors. According to Statistics Netherlands, self-employed workers put in the most non-billable hours in the youth care sector. Time spent for instance for networking, administration or obtaining assignments are considered non-billable hours.

Written by Nicole Bea Kerr