"Involuntary self-employment" as a public policy issue: A cross-country European review

Teemu Kautonen, Simon Down, Friederike Welter, Pekka Vainio, Jenni Palmroos, Kai Althoff, Susanne Kolb

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Articlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: There is growing political interest in new forms of precarious self-employment located in a "grey area" between employment and self-employment. A wide range of concepts has been used to debate this issue, and this paper aims to clarify these debates through the concept of involuntary self-employment. Design/methodology/approach: The paper reviews the empirical, conceptual and legal-policy approaches to involuntary self-employment via three country case studies in Finland, Germany and the UK. A range of relevant domestic academic literature, articles in the media, selected key expert interviews, and policy and legal documents are employed. Findings: Conceptual clarity regarding involuntary self-employment is achieved through a discussion of two aspects of the phenomenon: the characteristics of involuntariness from a motives-based perspective, and the legal/economic perspectives and policy issues. The motives-based analysis argues that involuntariness as such does not seem to have severe implications on the individuals' well being, given that the individual earns a satisfactory livelihood from her or his business activities. The discussion of the characteristics of and regulation related to working arrangements in the "grey area" between employment and self-employment, where the self-employed individual is strongly dependent on the principal, shows that it is very difficult to regulate quasi self-employment without harming "voluntary" forms of enterprise and inter-firm cooperation at the same time. Originality/value: The key contribution of the paper is to facilitate a foundation for subsequent empirical research and policy development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-129
Number of pages18
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2010
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


  • Industrial relations
  • Involuntary actions
  • Public policy
  • Self employed workers


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