Self-employed persons provide services under contractual agreements for payment without any bonds of subordination to the contracting partner. They are also called entrepreneurs or freelance, independent or own-account workers. The self-employed can be members of craft-enterprise or small-scale enterprise associations. It is often agreed that micro-enterprises include self-employed persons. The self-employed are autonomous with respect to social security contributions.
Employment can be considered as self-employment only if the work is done at one's own risk and with one's own means, without any interference from the contractor, and when payment is not dependent on the duration but on the result of the work accomplished.
In practice, it is not always easy to distinguish self-employment from a disguised employment relationship. In order to avoid legal obligations linked with employment, a genuine employment relationship may be hidden as "self-employment", although the worker is in fact dependent (e.g. in the case of some homeworkers, who are primarily women). Such " masked " employment would be governed by the law applicable to a "real" work relationship.
Worldwide, a growing number of women are engaging in own-account work. This state of affairs is due to multiple reasons, including the recognized "glass-ceiling" phenomenon which blocks their advancement, gender disparities in terms of wages, difficulty of access to (well-paid) jobs and the need to reconcile economic activities with family responsibilities.
→ see also Informal sector and Home work
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