Inflation takes its toll on the self-employed . Despite having recovered activity, four out of five self-employed workers consider that their business is the same or worse than a year ago, especially due to the increase in expenses. This is clear from the XVII quarterly barometer published this Monday by the National Federation of Associations of Self-Employed Workers (ATA). “There is more activity in 2023, but the self-employed at the end of the month earn the same or less than in 2022,” said the president of ATA, Lorenzo Amor, during the presentation of the survey.

Only 20.8% of the self-employed say that their business has grown in the last year, compared to 45.6% who estimate that the situation has remained the same and 33.6% who consider that the evolution has been negative . The prospects are not better for the coming months, since only one in five freelancers expect their business to grow in the remainder of 2023, compared to 37.8% who believe that it will remain the same and 32% who believe that will wane This negative perception has been reflected in billing. Three out of four self-employed workers state that their income has been maintained (38%) or has decreased (38.1%) compared to March 2022. Among those whose billing has been affected, in most cases the drop has ranged from between 10% and 15%.

According to the ATA barometer, the survival of businesses in the last year has been marked by the increase in costs. 85.3% of those surveyed maintain that expenses have increased compared to 2022. The majority (39.4%) estimate that increase between 10% and 20%, although for one in four the rise has reached 30% From ATA they emphasize that expenses have increased above income. “600,000 open their business every day knowing that they will have more expenses than income,” lamented Amor. Consequently, two out of three freelancers have reflected the increase in costs in their final prices .

In particular, what has most affected the self-employed has been inflation, contributions and taxes and the rise in the price of fuel and the cost of raw materials, as well as the rise in the price of electricity. In this sense, nine out of ten respondents consider that tax burdens have increased in the last three years. “The answer was obvious”, Amor has assessed. Specifically, 48.1% believe that the pension reform damages their competitiveness and 29.1% deny being able to assume the new charges derived from the rise in contributions.

To a lesser extent, the self-employed are also affected by increases in rents and interest rates. Six out of ten self-employed have mortgage expenses (16.8%) or rent (42.8%). In the first case, 22.6% of those with mortgages now pay between 300 and 600 euros more for their monthly fee and 26.7% have subsumed a monthly increase of less than 300 euros. In the case of rentals, from ATA they estimate that the average increase has been 7% , since 35.1% have risen between 4% and 8%; to 20%, less than 4% and to 16.9%, more than 8%. Amor has stressed that a 7% increase on an average rent of 1,000 euros means almost an additional monthly payment at the end of the year.

“Difficulties finding workers”

Regarding employment, according to the ATA barometer – prepared from 1,203 surveys carried out between March 27 and April 4 – the majority of respondents have maintained their workforce. Only one in ten has reduced it or plans to do so in the remainder of the year. On the contrary, Amor has affirmed that “there are difficulties in finding workers” in sectors such as technology, hospitality, transport or construction. 

For this reason, the president of ATA has said that he agrees with the suggestion made by the UGT a month ago about the possibility of withdrawing the unemployment benefit for the unemployed who reject job offers for which they are trained, as long as they are jobs “with agreed working and wage conditions”. Amor has gone a step further and has invited the central government and the autonomous communities to copy the Nordic countries to “make the collection of certain aid compatible with salaries”, at the same time that it has defended the “will” of the employer to reach an agreement to raise wages.

RETA reform

Regarding the reform of the Special Scheme for Self-Employed Workers (RETA) -which entered into force on January 1-, according to the ATA barometer, only 12.5% ​​of the self-employed have informed Social Security of their income forecast for adapt their fee to real income, even though the monthly fee has decreased for one in two respondents who have done so. “The vast majority of the self-employed have not changed their contribution base,” Amor has confirmed, who has attributed the low percentage to the difficulty of making an income forecast at the beginning of the year in a context of uncertainty like the current one. 

In fact, among the self-employed who have not yet communicated their forecast, only 13.2% plan to do so . Those who do not inform Social Security of their income will have to wait until 2024 to regularize their situation, once the tax data for 2023 is known. The new system allows the self-employed up to six changes in contribution bases, depending on their forecasts of income.


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