Working Breakfast: European Freelance & Future of Work

By Emilia Elizabeth Chochia

On Wednesday, November 29th, SME Europe in partnership with Ework Group, Freelance Movement, Free Trade Europa, and Supportwave held European Freelance & Future of Work Innovation Summit. The event was hosted by Jörgen WARBORN MEP, member of the Committee on International Trade and Vice-President at SME Europe.

The panel featured distinguished experts, including Karin SCHREIL, CEO at Ework Group; Callum ADAMSON, Entrepreneur & Founder at Distributed; Kalvin WETHERILL, CEO at Supportwave; Richard LINDEEN, Head of Operations & Deputy General Manager at WOLT; Mihaela PASEK-VIRLAN, CEO at Accace; Oleksandr SEVERYNOV, Co-founder at Wise Vision Group; Holly COPE, Freelancer; Olof MATTIASSON, CEO at Hemfixarna; Glen HODGSON, Secretary General at Freelance Movement and Horst HEITZ, Secretary General at SME Europe.

The event was opened by welcoming words of Glen Hodgson and Horst Heitz, who highlighted the signifigance of the summit’s host, Jörgen Warborn MEP, being an entrepeneur firsthand himself as well. Jörgen Warborn MEP shed some light on his background and expressed concern about the significant economic growth of China, acknowledging its remarkable economic progress. „We need discussions on China’s political system and its adherence to international trade rules. Asian economies are outpacing the US and Europe in terms of growth,“ He argues that Europe has fundamentally lost its competitiveness. Despite focusing on internal market development, free trade agreements, and globalism, Europe’s growth has not matched expectations since the 2007-2008 financial crisis. The huge digital transition can be viewed as apotential for growth as well as potential to solve some of the big issues we have in society. Unfortunately, the EU institutions are on the wrong track when it comes to digitalization as we are in the process of finalizing the AI act. Indeed there is need for regulation in AI, but it is very hard as once we have the decision done, it is not modern anymore. Warborn suggests addressing specific challenges such as biased data, personal privacy, and product safety by updating existing laws like discrimination, product safety, or GDPR. He argues against the “Brussels Effect” and suggests a more nuanced and adaptable approach to regulation that considers global diversity in data models.

Karin Schreil pointed out that global nature of the industry requires expanding talent searches beyond Europe, reaching countries like India, the Philippines, and the US. The focus is on helping clients quickly find skilled talent to drive development and innovation, especially in response to trends like electrification. Schreil advocates for removing barriers to talent to foster societal and organisational growth. Leadership is emphasized as a crucial factor in this context. Having the right leadership in the new digital economy is crucial for decision makers, for politicians, and for everybody who’s involved in supporting innovation, development and growth. A leader today must realize that work is no longer about jobs. It’s more than workers doing a nine to five job at a specific workplace. The future of work is becoming more complex.

Kelvin Wetherill finds that with the global talent shortage, specifically in tech, you can’t get the people you need when you need them, and often you can’t get them in your own country. He strongly believes that it’s very important that the freelance movement moves forward as it’s giving the power back to the people.

Callum Adamson underscores the significance of unrestricted experimentation, risk-taking, and utilizing talent from various sources for growth. He acknowledges that moving fast may entail breaking things but emphasize the importance of staying within ethical and legal boundaries. The removal of bureaucracy is a natural step to revive competitive spirits in the pursuit of growth.

The discussion delved into the complexities of the evolving work landscape, specifically for freelancers and on-demand talent. The experts favoured for a nuanced approach to employment classifications, moving beyond a binary distinction and expressed concerns about legislation affecting freelancers. Legal clarity, particularly in tax and employment laws, is crucial for encouraging enterprise engagement. The global perspective is explored, touching on the e-commerce moratorium and advocating for favorable conditions for freelancers. The dialogue underscored the need to overcome regulatory uncertainties to create an optimal environment, with a recurring call for a global collaborative approach.

The publication of this document received financial support from the European Parliament. Sole liability rests with the author. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.