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Roundtable focused on the development of the Macedonian freelance ecosystem

SKOPJE, 18.04.2024: Yesterday, a roundtable was held dedicated to the development of the freelancing ecosystem in North Macedonia, organized within the framework of the project “Expanding opportunities for entrepreneurship of young people and economic empowerment of women”, supported by the US Embassy. The roundtable discussion was on the new non-standard forms of “employment”, with a focus on the promotion of freelancing through digital platforms, as an opportunity for self-employment and generating additional income.

The roundtable was attended by representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations, representatives from international development organizations, and independent experts and freelancers who shared their views and opinions.

Digital work platforms used to provide a variety of services are the result of the latest technological revolution in the labor market. Because they are relatively new, researchers are scrambling to define and measure them, while policymakers face the challenge of how to regulate them. These platforms have a generally positive impact on the economy and contribute to job creation and innovation and provide income for workers (often additional) and the opportunity to access employment for vulnerable categories of citizens.

“In N. Macedonia the number of freelancers who want to work from home is growing, with a flexible schedule of their time and in order to have direct access to global markets and be competitive in those markets. They are driven by personal growth and development and constantly invest in acquiring new skills and improving existing ones. Still, the social status of freelancing does not offer them social benefits and security. But at least from a taboo topic, the Impact Foundation, through projects from various donors, in the last two years managed to change the public’s perception and motivate freelancers to come out publicly, to invest in themselves, and today to be proud of their successful freelance career.” – explains Elena Ivanova, director of the Impact Foundation, organizer of the roundtable.

Among the main challenges for freelancers that were discussed are: the impossibility of accessing labor and social rights (especially for the young female population); the absence of a form in the existing legislation that offers both flexibility for employers and security for workers; the need to adjust the status in the regulation, the complex administrative procedures for paying personal income tax when earning income from abroad; the complicated access to private health insurance; the opportunities offered by the state for education and improving skills; the absence of a platform that contains all the information they need, etc.

The institutions in charge, such as the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, the Ministry of Finance, as well as the RNM Employment Agency, are open and willing to respond to the needs of freelancers. But there is no quick solution to fix the problem permanently. Macedonian labor law is rigid and does not recognize new forms of employment. There is an initiative and process of drafting a law for the introduction of a new regulation in the area of work on digital platforms and a register for voluntary and independent regulation of pension and health insurance benefits. In order to speed up the process, it is necessary to define the category of people who perform these jobs and the type of engagement, in order to create a basis on which freelancers will have a direct link to enter the mandatory social insurance.

Although the current regulation allows for the payment of benefits, a simpler and more direct solution that meets international standards is needed. The freelancers recommended that it is necessary to develop a national strategy and a package of measures for the support and development of freelancing and remote employment in order to positively influence the freelancing ecosystem in N. Macedonia and prevent the emigration of young and talented people, who constantly need to educated and improve themselves to remain competitive in the labor market.

“The discussion we had together with all involved parties gave hope that there is concern and will to work on this important topic. At the moment, both sides, the state and the freelancers, are losing. And if we can point out: we also have a third party – and that is the market for those services, which will remain uncompetitive in N. Macedonia if we do not develop it.

I believe that this discussion is a starting point for regulating the status of these persons, understanding the challenges and opportunities and creating guidelines for action.” – was added by Impact Foundation.

This project is supported by the US Embassy. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the implementers/authors, and do not reflect those of the US Government.

Andrijana Serafimovska

Andrijana Serafimovska is the Communications Assistant at Impact Foundation. An ambitious and self-driven individual, with a passion for volunteering to better the quality of life of disadvantaged groups. She is experienced in project management for NGOs and social media marketing.