The political debate about the future of the self-employed in the labor market is conducted on the basis of wrong data and misinterpretations. This is evident from a publication by independent knowledge platform ZiPconomy, which was commissioned by HeadFirst Group and ONL voor Ondernemers to map the heterogeneity and diversity of the self-employed population in the Netherlands. "Facts and figures are indispensable to make the right policy choices. In this report we bring together all relevant data on the self-employed, with the aim of taking the labor market debate to a higher level," explains Han Kolff, CEO at HeadFirst Group.

Most self-employed work in business services
Research by I&O Research, commissioned by the trade union FNV, shows that some 80 percent of the Dutch think that self-employed people work mainly in construction. A misunderstanding, because in reality the business services sector is the largest. More than a quarter of all self-employed workers work in that sector; only 15 percent work in construction. In addition, the education sector is the biggest riser between 2007 and 2019, at 186 percent. This does not mean that so many more teachers are self-employed in front of elementary school classrooms, the thought that is prevalent in political The Hague. In fact, almost half of the self-employed in education provided corporate training or tutoring in 2019. Their number tripled. On the contrary, the number of self-employed people teaching in regular education decreased.

Number of conscious, highly educated self-employed workers growing
Furthermore, figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) show that self-employed people in 2021 are, on average, more highly educated than in previous years. The number of highly educated self-employed workers has more than doubled, while the share of practically educated self-employed workers, on the other hand, declined sharply. In six years, this percentage dropped from 19 percent to 15 percent. Kolff says: "The figures show that a growing group of employed people in their search for autonomy and challenge are taking the step to self-employment. Only just under 7 percent of the self-employed population call themselves forced self-employed. It is high time for a solution that supports needy self-employed people, but leaves the larger group of conscious self-employed people free to undertake."

Do care for the vulnerable self-employed
The report further shows that the distribution of wealth among the self-employed is greater than among employees, for example in terms of annual income and financial buffer. Self-employed people are overrepresented in both the lower income brackets (less than €20,000 per year) and the higher income brackets (more than €50,000 per year). Kolff argues that a helping hand from politics is needed for the self-employed with lower hourly rates and small financial buffers. "This group benefits from protection, for example against the consequences of disability and unemployment. However, this should go hand in hand with collectivity, social security and modern solidarity. A basic social system is needed for all working people, regardless of their contract or legal form, with securities that move with the changes in their working lives. A substantial change from the current system, but much needed to make the labor market future-proof," Kolff said.

Some of the results of the research are compiled in an infographic. The entire report 'The self-employed do exist. Facts about the self-employed without personnel' is free to download at

About HeadFirst Group
HeadFirst Group is a leading, international HR service provider and the largest temporary employment platform for professionals in the Netherlands. The organization offers a diversity of HR solutions: Managed Service Providing, Recruitment Process Outsourcing, intermediary services (matchmaking, contracting) and HR consultancy. An average of fifteen thousand professionals work daily for over four hundred clients in Europe, with which HeadFirst Group realizes an annual turnover of over 1.5 billion euros. The main brands of HeadFirst Group are the intermediaries HeadFirst, Between and Myler, MSP service provider Staffing Management Services and RPO and recruitment specialist Sterksen.