Do freelance independent contractors promote entrepreneurship?

  • Andrew BurkeEmail author
  • Imran Zawwar
  • Stephanie Hussels


We investigate whether or not the level of entrepreneurial activity in an economy is determined by the availability of freelance independent contractors in the workforce. We develop hypotheses and test them through an analysis of 75 countries from 2002 to 2012 using the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) database. We find freelance independent contractors promote entrepreneurial activity where typically a 10% rise in the freelance workforce causes about a 1% increase in entrepreneurial activity. The significance of this positive effect is robust for both necessity and opportunity-driven entrepreneurial types and across innovation-driven and efficiency-driven economies—but it is stronger in innovation-driven economies and also for necessity entrepreneurship. It implies that having a flexible workforce is a key ingredient to having an entrepreneurial economy. Furthermore, it indicates that orthodox research and public policy perspectives which overlook the importance of freelance independent contractors for entrepreneurship activity require a re-appraisal.


Freelancers Contractors Enabling entrepreneurship Promoting entrepreneurship Entrepreneurial activity 

JEL classification

J41 L24 L26 M21 O25 



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Trinity Business School, Trinity College DublinUniversity of DublinDublin 2Ireland
  2. 2.Cranfield School of ManagementCranfield UniversityBedfordshireUK

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