STA, 2 April 2018 - The number of the self-employed, which peaked at the height of the economic crisis, is growing again. Statistics Office data show the figure has hit 116,000 or 12% of the workforce, close to the record of 119,000 in 2010.
In relative terms, the share of the self-employed is below the EU average of 14%; it varies strongly across the bloc, from 8% in Denmark to 30% in Greece.
Self-employment was strongly incentivised during the economic crisis, when subsidies of up to 5,000 euro were offered to individuals who opened sole proprietorships (SPs).
But while this helped reduce unemployment, it created a strongly segmented labour market: a class of mostly young self-employed with poor to non-existent protection of rights, and a well-protected class of mostly older workers with permanent contracts.
Moreover, a significant share of the self-employed actually work for a single employer, in violation of the legal requirement that if an employment relationship has the characteristics of full-time work, it should be the subject of a full-time employment contract.
Karmen Hren of the Statistics Office said at a recent press conference that an estimated 14,000 self-employed fell in this category. In recent years their figure rose significantly, having stood at about 9,000 in 2012.
The figure is mirrored in a survey conducted by the Statistics Office among the self-employed showing that 30% were driven by opportunity, a quarter inherited a family business, while a tenth did not find regular work. Two-thirds of sole proprietors do not employ any workers save for the proprietors.
Prior to the crisis such "fake" self-employment had been restricted to the creative professions and low-paid jobs, but at least to a certain extent the current trend also appears to be driven by highly-paid staff trying to avoid paying taxes.
A recent report by Podcrto.si, an investigative journalism portal, indicates that many IT experts opt for a special kind of sole proprietorship where a flat tax is only paid on 20% of earnings, up to annual earnings of EUR 40,000 and, in some cases, EUR 80,000.
The system was put in place in 2012 to simplify bureaucracy, but is appears to be increasingly used to dodge taxes, according to Podcrto.si.