Recent research by ABN AMRO and the consultancy firm Adapt shows that the theoretically-trained professionals feel less connected to their clients. Theoretically trained professionals value job security, autonomy and the social significance of the client above all else. The researchers count 520,000 theoretically trained self-employed, more than twice as many as ten years ago and almost half of the total number of self-employed. Their level of education is relatively high. On average, they invoice 87 euros, an increase of 4 euros compared to the period before the corona crisis. The importance of freelancers for the labor market is great. 

The Netherlands has a relatively large number of self-employed, but not much more than comparable economies. Relative to the total employed population, the number of self-employed in the Netherlands is 16.6%. Within the European Union, this average is 15.3%. The group of theoretically trained self-employed is growing in the Netherlands. They are more numerous, more expensive and more demanding than before corona. 
Compared to other countries, the Netherlands offers more tax facilities to people who are self-employed. Examples are the self-employed tax deduction and the SME profit exemption. This is not to say that self-employed people by definition pay less tax, as they often have a higher hourly rate and therefore pay more income tax.  In Dutch legislation, there is no separate position for the self-employed without personnel. In assessing the employment relationship, criteria derived from case law are used. These criteria are often unambiguous and clear.  

The friction is felt especially at the bottom of the market

Minister Karien van Gennip of Social Affairs and Employment wants to rebalance the badly unbalanced labor market. Her first priority is to reduce precarious work and false self-employment. In the FD the minister emphasizes that she will tackle false self-employment, without getting in the way of the people who really are self-employed. “Especially at the bottom of the market, you have competition on employment conditions and we want to limit that as much as possible. Now it is very difficult for people who are hired as self-employed, but are in an employee situation, to change that. With the rebuttable legal presumption, which will also be included in the European directive on platform work, you will soon be able to go to court and say: ‘I earn less than, say, €35 per hour’. Then you are an employee and it is up to the employer to prove that this is not the case. Now false self-employed people have to litigate up to the Supreme Court.”

Distinction between employee and self-employed: simple, explainable and verifiable

Within the freelancer file there have been substantial issues for years such as: When can a client hire someone as a self-employed person? When is the self-employed person considered an entrepreneur, from a tax and/or employment law perspective? What place should the self-employed have in the social security system? Dutch politics is looking for a way to make a clear distinction between an employee and a self-employed person. Preferably in a simple, explainable and verifiable manner. That appears to be a challenge. Other countries are also looking for a balance. That is why it is interesting to take a look at Belgium. Our neighboring country has a fairly similar economy and labor market.

Thumbs up for the Belgians

In terms of taxation and social security, employees and the self-employed are treated more equally in Belgium. This creates a different playing field. This seems to be a reason that there is less political and social discussion about false self-employment. Additional criteria apply to certain sectors, where the risk of abuse of the employment relationship has proven to be high in recent years. Examples are the agricultural sector, the cleaning sector and the logistics sector. A sectoral approach, therefore, with customization and an eye for diversity rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. In Belgium, these additional criteria provide more clarity for the parties involved.

Belgium comes up with legislation for the platform economy

The Belgian cabinet concluded a political agreement for the reform of the labor market at the beginning of this year. The current law will be amended by the Labor Deal: there will be specific criteria to determine whether someone in the platform economy can be considered self-employed. In the old law there were additional, restrictive criteria for a number of high-risk sectors. These criteria will now also apply to the platform economy. In addition, there will be a right to a four-day work week. The goal of the labor deal: more people in work and more flexibility for employers and employees. Every employee will have the right to at least three days of training per year. In 2023 this should be four per year, in 2024 this will be increased to five per year. In addition, every company with at least twenty employees must also draw up an individual training plan for its employees. In order to be able to put as many available workers to work as possible, the government checks how diversity and discrimination are doing in the workplace. If companies are shown to deviate from average figures in the sector, they must draw up an action plan to address this.


Nederland presenteert plannen om schijnzelfstandigheid te bestrijden. Belgische Arbeidsrelatiewet is inspiratiebron:

Structureel inzetten op flexibel talent:

Minister Van Gennip wil flex terugdringen: ‘Er zal altijd flex nodig blijven, maar niet zoveel als we nu hebben’

België komt met criteria regulering inzet zzp’ers in platformeconomie:


Hoogopgeleide zzp’ers moeilijker te binden: binden#:~:text=De%20zelfstandige%20hoogopgeleide%20professional%20voelt,maatschappelijke%20betekenis%20van%20de%20opdrachtgevere.

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