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Independent Worker Day — a time to celebrate and support gig workers and freelancers

On the 16th of August, the U.S. celebrates National Independent Worker Day honoring tens of millions of freelancers, self-employed, consultants, small businesses owners, and others who’ve chosen to take an independent employment path. 

We live in a world with social institutions and benefits built around traditional full-time jobs, however, the modern world of work is changing and there are increasingly more work types and formats to be welcomed and advocated for.

The National Independent Worker Day is a very new celebration; in fact, this year will only be the third time this occasion is celebrated in the U.S. Established by the Association of Independent Workers, this day is aimed at giving and protecting equal rights and benefits that most full-time employees enjoy and take for granted. 

While the rest of the world still waits for such a celebration to be established, we wanted to show our support and recognition for the independent workforce in Europe by looking at some freelancer statistics, trends and predictions.

 

Who are the self-employed, and how big is their contribution to the economy?

In the European Union, 32.6 million persons are self-employed, accounting for 14% of total employment. The broad “self-employed” category includes different types of professionals ranging from drivers, handymen, and other manual workers to consultants in different fields, data scientists, translators, and designers.

These are the most common fields where freelancers work:

  • Marketing and communication – 30.9%
  • IT/tech industries – 26.5%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation – 18%

There’s an equal number of female and male self-employed professionals in Europe. However, when it comes to digital occupations, men outnumber women representing 65% of digital freelancers. Women are more represented in the communications field, while men dominate the IT and data scene.

Freelancers are an important part of the European economy; however, their contribution to national economies varies from country to country. These are the Top-10 countries of the world where freelancers exhibit the greatest year-over-year revenue growth.

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Freelancers aren’t always project-based employees of other companies and clients – they can also be small business owners. The smallest businesses, the number of which has increased by 45% since 2000, are the fastest growing segment of the EU labour market, making it essential to recognize them as important players in the economy.

While there isn’t a designated day for honoring freelancers in Europe, there are initiatives that support the European independent workforce. For example, European Freelancers Week takes place in October, with many events happening in different European cities. In fact, the whole month of October is named Freelance Business Month with an aim to unite the European freelance ecosystem, cultivate ideas, knowledge, learning new tools, and sharing skills that enhance freelance productivity and efficiency.

 

Technology supporting and encouraging gig-workers

For today’s freelancers, technology isn’t only a means of job-seeking. Technology is often what enables and motivates people to take up side-gigs in the first place. App taxi drivers, food delivery couriers, and different service providers find their clients and offer their services through mobile apps.

Technology also makes distance unimportant – people are increasingly becoming more connected, and freelancing for clients in other countries and even continents has become easier than ever. The Covid-19 pandemic has also fostered virtual communication and urged more and more people to work remotely. 

Platforms and apps are also keeping up with the new work reality and creating better and more flexible opportunities and services for independent workers. For example, Cachet offers tailored car insurance for app taxi drivers who only drive part-time and can now pay taxi insurance only during their work hours. 

What’s in store for the future freelancer?

Exciting times ahead! Future independent workers can expect more diverse job opportunities and more flexible conditions shaped by the times we live in. The pandemic and innovative technology will continue to make location irrelevant and reshape the corporate stereotypes of what workdays should look like. 

Another important aspect to look forward to is regulations catching up. As the gig economy is relatively young, labor regulations are still primarily focused around traditional employment. But with more and more people across the world engaging in gigs, the laws are bound to be rewritten to suit the modern worker. 

For example, retirement regulations and the reasoning behind employee benefits are on their way to be changed. Social security and retirement structures will need to be expanded in order to include gig workers. These changes aren’t only in the interest of the gig-workers themselves – all society needs to advocate for human rights and equal opportunities for all types of workers. 

Last but not least, stereotypes surrounding the gig economy will melt away. If today gig workers are often unfairly associated with working less serious, less important jobs or even jobs that nobody wants to do, these stigmas are about to disappear as more workers join the cause and more types of gigs become common. We know for a fact what the world still has to learn — gig workers are just as satisfied with their jobs as the regular workforce and report better work-life balance. 

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Let’s wrap up with the famous words by the American motivational speaker and writer Denis Waitley:

There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them. 

 

For all the brave independent workers out there – good luck on your path, and whatever happens – don’t give up!

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