Freelancers at highest risk of poverty: Stats office

Of all working people in the Netherlands, freelancers are most often at risk of dropping below the poverty line, Statistics Netherlands reported on Tuesday. In 2017 the percentage of freelancers - self-employed persons with no employees - at risk of earning less than they need increased, while the number of employees at risk of poverty has been decreasing for years.

According to Statistics Netherlands, a single person is at risk of poverty if he or she earns less than 1,040 euros net per month. For a single parent with one child that amount is 1,380, and for a couple with two children 1,960 euros. In 2017, the latest figures the stats office has, 2.5 percent of Dutch households, 188 thousand people, were below this line and therefore at risk for poverty. 

The percentage of workers at risk of poverty, both employees and freelancers, has been decreasing since it peaked at 3.5 percent in 2013. In 2017, however, the proportion of freelancers at risk of poverty increased again, from 8.1 percent to 8.6 percent. This percentage for employees and self-employed with employees remained stable in that year, and is considerably lower at 1.6 percent and 4.5 percent respectively. 

Statistics Netherlands' chief economist Peter Hein van Mulligen called it remarkable that the incomes of the ever-growing group of freelancers are still lagging behind. "The income of freelancers is always a bit more erratic than that of employees, because the amount of orders fluctuates, but usually freelancers benefit somewhat more from economic growth than ordinary employees. That effect seems to be missing here", he said, according to broadcaster NOS. 

In addition to freelancers, workers with a non-western background, people with lower levels of education, and single people are more at risk of falling below the poverty line.