For the most of us, entrepreneurship is a dream come true. For others, it can be a necessity, dictated by circumstances. With endless possibilities, the number of self-employed entrepreneurs is constantly growing. However experts remind us that it is important that society’s structures keep up with the transformation.
The gig economy, digitalisation and startup hype are trendy terms in today’s transforming work life. Despite the fact that the majority of employed people are still in full-time permanent employment, the number of self-employed people is constantly growing. In addition, more and more young people consider entrepreneurship as a potential career option.
“The entrepreneurial ethos has become stronger and positive comments about startups are increasingly common. I dare say that entrepreneurship education and discussion in the media have influenced the public opinion,” states Ville-Veikko Pulkka, doctoral researcher in social and public policy at the University of Helsinki.
Julia Jousilahti, Senior Expert at Demos Helsinki agrees. She points out that discourse has changed and the media hypes about entrepreneurial lives with superhero stories. Even though the rags to riches success stories apply to very few people and working as a freelancer is not possible in all lines of work, Jousilahti says that digitalisation has made it much easier to set up a business.
“The resources required to set up a business, such as tools, are more accessible to everyone. All you need is a laptop to set up a business.”
Entrepreneurs create significance in the world
Freedom and responsibility blend in entrepreneurship in a completely different way than in full-time employment. However, Pulkka as well as Jousilahti emphasise that entrepreneurship isn’t always a dream come true. Full-time employment is simply not available. For these entrepreneurs, is was not necessarily a free choice.
Pulkka points out that statistically, the most common reason to set up a business is that the right opportunity presented itself.
“Being self-employed isn’t as gloomy as you are sometimes led to think. According to research, self-employed people experience higher work engagement than wage-earners, that is, the work itself gives more.”
According to Jousilahti, the best-case scenario is that entrepreneurship gives you the opportunity to engage in work that feels significant. Entrepreneurship drives innovation forward in society, because new businesses aren’t tied to old lines of business and operating models.
“Millennials, in particular, do not go to work and toil away from nine to five motivated by mere Lutheran ethics. For that purpose, entrepreneurship can offer better opportunities than traditional paid work,” says Jousilahti.
Pulkka also thinks that combining paid work and entrepreneurship will become increasingly common.
Problems include undervaluing and rip off pricing
It is feared that digitalisation, artificial intelligence and robotisation will steal employment. However, the transformation of work is also creating new forms of business. Also many services and communities for the self-employed have come up. These can ease the burden of work, act as sources for peer support and provide assistance in developing one’s business further.
Pulkka and Jousilahti are also calling for change in social structures to adapt to the transformation of working life. Some issues include undervaluing, inadequate social security and in some cases, entrepreneurs’ poor possibilities to influence the pricing of their work.
Jousilahti emphasises that she does not object to platform economy as such. Instead she calls for debate on its regulation and development. For example, Finland’s new Government programme takes this into account. It promises to examine the need for legislative reform from the viewpoints of the self-employed, platform and sharing economy.
“Work must enable you to make a living and it must be fair for all,” says Jousilahti.
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