According to the FOD Economie
- a freelancer or a self-employed person in Belgium is someone who exercises a professional activity without being bound by an employment contract or status. A self-employed person in Belgium has their own social status and obligations to cover social protection fees. This person can exercise their independent professional activity in the legal form of a sole proprietorship (independent natural person) or a company (legal person) either as a full-time worker, a part-time worker or as a helper to another self-employed person.
Unfortunately, Belgian authorities are not separating independent professionals according to their scope of work. The numbers and statistics provided by them are general and include freelancers working across seven industries: agriculture, fishing, industry, and crafts (manufacturing, trade, liberal professions, services, and miscellaneous). Due to this, it is challenging to draw a distinctive description of white-collar freelancers vs. blue-collar freelancers.
On the 31st of December 2021, there were 1.230.419
self-employed entrepreneurs and helpers (as defined by RSVZ) that were affiliated with social insurance funds, precisely:
- More than 60% in the Flemish Region
- Almost 10% in the Brussels-Capital Region
- Less than 30% in the Walloon Region
The 2021 UNIZO
report states that the number of self-employed people in full-time occupations has been declining yearly since 2003, while part-time work and self-employment on a pension are gradually growing.
Of the 1,2 mln self-employed people and helpers who are affiliated with social insurance funds in Belgium:
- (64.8 %) are self-employed in their main occupation,
- (24.8 %) are self-employed in secondary occupation
- (10.4 %) active after retirement age.
They belong to the age group of:
- 35 to 49 years (427.533; 36.1% of the total)
- 50 to 64 years (384.041; 32.5% of the total).
Most of them are men (767.126; 64.9% of the total).
They mainly work in two industries:
- trade (333.457; 28.2 % of the total)
- liberal professions (374.418; 31.7 % of the total).
During the last ten years, the number of female self-employed has increased slightly faster (+2.6 %) than that of male self-employed (+2 %). A trend that also continued between 2019 and 2020 with a respective increase in the number of female and male self-employed of +3.6% and +3.1%.
As of 1st January 2017, Belgian authorities allow students to apply for self-employed status. Thanks to that statute, students can:
- Free up time to combine self-employment with their studies;
- Enjoy various benefits, particularly social protection and lower social and tax thresholds.
Most students execute the right to self-employment in the following fields:
- Liberal professions - 39,66%
- Trade - 30,52%
- Industry - 15,57%
- Agriculture - 5%
- Other - 4,33%
- Services - 4,84%
Unizo and Graydon made an attempt to evaluate the number of freelancers (white-collars) in Brussels and Flemish Region. According to the Freelance Focus report 2022
there are 198.664 (vs 185.343 in 2021) freelancers active in Brussels and Flemish Region. As stated in this report, white-collar freelancers do not have a specific status, therefore no official numbers are available in Belgium. In order to make an estimation, the report takes into account the specific NACE-codes which describe an independent activity. For example, consultancy, ICT, PR and media services, photography etc. No similar estimation is found for the Walloon Region.
The report also shows that 82% of freelancers have either a master or bachelor degree.