The project focuses on exchange of good practices to support self-employed people’s work-life reconciliation. Some people choose self-employment as it can provide flexibility and a better work-life balance, however, it can also result in unpredictable or irregular working hours, as well as the lack of job security and sufficient access to social protection. These factors can severely impinge on the work-life balance of self-employed workers, particularly self-employed women. Promoting entrepreneurship and self-employment is crucial to achieving smart sustainable growth across Europe. An important contributing factor to achieving this is ensuring that self-employed individuals can reconcile professional and family responsibilities.

In the beginning of 2017, self-employed people made up 15% of the workforce in EU Member States. The self-employment rate for Estonia is 9.3% and this leaves us in the bottom of EU countries along with Denmark, Sweden and Germany.

A national report presenting the situation of work-life balance for self-employed people in Estonia, measures adopted for supporting work-life reconciliation and a brief discussion on the transferability of Belgian measures, was prepared. The project resulted in a two-day seminar that took place in the end of June 2017 in Brussels, Belgium. During the seminar, the experts and government representatives from eight EU Member States and the representatives of European Commission discussed Belgian practices of supporting work-life reconciliation of self-employed people and the transferability of these practices to other EU Member States.

Key learning elements from the seminar were as follows:

  • Forms of employment are becoming increasingly complex and differences between self-employment and wage employment are blurred. There is also an increasing trend for the employment history of individuals to include periods of both self-employment and wage employment. This may impact on the social protection of such individuals, as well as their families.
  • There is a wide variety in social protection systems across countries, but generally the trend shows a growing gap in access to social protection for the self-employed.
  • Flexibility needs to be introduced into the use of social protection systems and take-up of leave, so as to allow individuals to move in and out of self-employment/employee status and to facilitate reconciliation of professional and family life.
  • Transferability needs to be allowed in terms of built up rights such as pension entitlements. This could increase labour market flexibility.
  • Access to information on entitlements to social protection could be improved through awareness raising activities and better use of modern technology (e.g. social benefit calculators) so that individuals can make more informed choices.
  • Tackling these work-life challenges require a joined-up and integrated approach, bringing together different ministries and policy areas as well as different levels of governance.
  • Further monitoring and evaluation of existing measures is needed so that information on their impact can inform policy decisions.

The reports of other countries are available on the European Commission’s webpage.