The Situation of the Self-Employed

About this Session


Wed. 10.04. 17:25



Author – Karin Schulze Buschoff , Eileen Peters

The COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly and fundamentally changed people’s lives across the globe. One key focus in the public and academic debate was the unequal distribution of adversity and advantage when coping with the burdens resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions to help contain the virus (e.g., shutdowns and social distancing). Although the whole population faced these burdens and risks, differences in the available private and public resources and support measures created unequal chances to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. It quickly became apparent that especially the self-employed were hard hit by the pandemic restrictions and a lack of governmental support measures to buffer the adverse consequences (Eurofound, 2020; Kritikos et al., 2020; Schulze Buschoff & Emmler, 2021; Kalenkoski & Pabilonia, 2020). For instance, one of Germany’s most important and highly effective instruments to secure employment and stabilize the labor market was the easier access to the short-time work scheme (Bonin et al., 2021). However, self-employed did not benefit from this instrument and were generally more poorly protected against social risks as support measures only covered the monetary gap to cover fixed business expenses, not living costs (Grabka, 2021). As a result, self-employed faced more severe income losses, working hours reductions, and increases in unemployment, with many giving up their self-employment (Kritikos et al., 2021; Hanschke & Strauß, 2021; Schulze Buschoff & Emmler, 2021). Hence, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of this group regarding appropriate social protection, a topic already discussed long before the pandemic. But did the self-employed recover from the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic? Is there heterogeneity in adversity among the group of self-employed creating inequality between groups? Has the pandemic deepened inequality between the self-employed and employees? To uncover these questions, we focus on how employees and self-employed strains regarding their financial situation, working conditions, and job security have developed during the pandemic. Furthermore, we explore how the self-employed assess the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences today and to what extent their experience of the crisis has shaped their preference for including the self-employed in the social security systems. To explore these questions, we utilize the WSI-Erwerbspersonenbefragung data persisting of 11 Waves starting from April 2020 to November 2023.