Number of permanent contracts on the rise
In the final quarter of 2016 the number of employees on permanent contracts had grown by 21,000 compared to the final quarter of 2015 (see Figure 1). This is a notable development, given that the recovery of the labour market could be fully attributed to flexible contracts in the period from 2014 onwards until recently, while the number of permanent contracts fell rapidly at the same time. Flexible labour is mostly made up of employees on fixed-term contracts, on-call workers and agency staff. Self-employed workers are often included as well. Despite the recent increase, the total number of employees on permanent contracts has dropped significantly over the past twelve years, from 5.7 million in 2004 to 5.2 million in 2016. Over the same period, the number of workers on flexible contracts increased by nearly 800,000 (to 1.8 million in 2016) and the number of self-employed by nearly 400,000 (to more than 1 million). This means that in 2016, one third of the total employed labour force held a flexible contract or were self-employed workers.