Freelancers: the Key to Fostering Innovation & Entrepreneurs?

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Tina Amirtha looks at whether hiring a more flexible workforce is the key to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in the Netherlands.

At one time, the phrase “going freelance” might have been something that you would have heard from a disgruntled colleague who had just been let go and was secretly plotting to take all of her ex-boss’s best clients.

Now, freelancing is a regular phenomenon, no matter in what part of the world you live. What was once a synonym for being unemployed is now a valid occupation. In a place like the Netherlands, where the national discussion is searching for ways to stimulate innovation in the economy, this is a good thing.

Just how can the Dutch business climate foster entrepreneurship and innovation? A good answer is: hire more freelancers.

The Netherlands’ high ranking amongst the world’s most innovative countries is a result of its strong research system. The Dutch spend generously on public research and development programs, attract foreign doctoral students and produce internationally co-authored scientific publications. Nonetheless, what kept the Dutch from reaching the top spots in rankings is dwindling investment in research and development within the private sector. In addition, hi-tech product and service introductions and sales showed weak figures in the analysis.

According to the European Commission, the Dutch need to regrow investment in private industry’s R&D projects and get hi-tech products and knowledge-intensive services engaged in their economy. Firm investments in the business sector as a percentage of the GDP declined in the Netherlands. Equally important, the presence of hi-tech companies in the Netherlands has not made a strong impact to employment, trade or GDP. The Dutch need to implement the right strategy to strengthen its knowledge sector’s economic impact.

Tax incentives and subsidies aside, which depend on lengthy political discussions, what can change in Dutch business culture right now?

Well, hiring a more flexible workforce will foster entrepreneurship. The number of self-employed people will go up in the near future, and it’s something that employers can leverage in order to make their businesses more innovative.

Stagnating employment numbers and reduced fixed costs at companies will reduce the amount of fixed employees working in the office. However, companies can utilize flexible resources to meet their business needs. That’s where freelancers come in. Not only are they available now, but companies will have more to choose from in the future.

More of these flexible workers leads to more innovation. Self-employed professionals are often specialists in their field, having accumulated a mine of experiences with several different clients. They are creative and can work outside of the company’s culture.

Hiring them is key to bringing Dutch innovation outside of a lab book and into the marketplace.


Tina Amirtha spends part of her time developing software and the other part, writing. Based in the Netherlands, she has covered female affirmative action efforts in Dutch higher education. As a female engineer, she is interested in how women can gain more visibility in male-dominated fields, like STEM. Follow her on Twitter @tinamirtha.