The Netherlands


In 2018, the solo self-employment rate in the Netherlands was approximately 11.5% of the working population (15-64), a share slightly above the European Union average (9.7%). Solo self-employed workers accounted for about 9.8% and 13.0% of the working population of women and men respectively, and they were almost 74.6% of the total self-employed. In the period 2005-2018, there was a sharp rise in the number of self-employed without employees of approximately 51.1%. Such growth was mainly due to the increase of women, migrant and late-career solo self-employed workers. The expansion of solo self-employment has involved mainly high skilled professionals and technicians, and service and sales workers. Estimates show that almost 7.0% of the solo-self-employed can be classified as economically dependent (i.e self-employed workers who work mainly for one client and do not decide their working hours), a share well above the European Union average (4.7%).

In the Netherlands, labour law is founded on a binary approach. Dependent work is performed for the employer under their direction, while self-employed workers are considered to be entrepreneurs. Solo self-employed workers are labelled as freelancers, or more properly ZZP (Zelfstandige Zonder Personeel: self-employed without personnel). They have to work for multiple clients and at their own expense and risk. A self-employed worker in the Netherlands can perform a job by means of a contract for service or a contract of work. A contract of work is defined as an agreement whereby one party agrees to deliver an opus perfectum. By means of a contract for service, work is performed out of the scheme of a contract of work. The self-employed are entitled to a reasonable remuneration (Art. 7:405). They are not entitled to the timely payment thereof nor payment in case of illness. Insurance for sickness and disability is voluntary for self-employed workers. They lack protection against dismissal, and they are expected to arrange their own social security provisions, including pensions. Art. 7:610 (section 7.10.1) of the Dutch Civil Code contains a definition of ‘employment agreement’ and the law features a presumption of the existence of an employment agreement when the work is performed for “three consecutive months and this weekly or for at least twenty hours per month”.

The Dutch system of industrial relations relies on a consensus-based model of collective bargaining called ‘the polder’. This system of representation was able to adapt to the evolution of the Dutch labour market, and in a rather unique way also includes representatives of the solo self-employed. Specifically, the employers’ side is represented by the platform for self-employed entrepreneurs (PZO), while the main trade union confederation FNV created the branch for the self-employed FNV ZZP. In addition to these organisations, in the first fieldwork conducted in the Netherlands, the trade unions CNV, VCP and De Unie were also followed, as well as other collective actors, such as ZZP Nederland, VZZP, Werkvereniging and ZZP Bouw that, despite being out of ‘the polder’, make a significant contribution to shaping the discourses and practices on solo self-employed workers’ collective representation. While conducting the fieldwork in the Netherlands, the researchers were hosted at the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS).