Let’s give the Liberal Professionals a voice!

There is a different and deeply unfair treatment in Portugal and many European countries between employees and self-employed professionals. It is essential for liberal professionals to implement their own Statute. So that some don’t remain “more equal” than others.

The National Association of Liberal Professionals, ANPL, is assumed in Portugal as the only interprofessional voice for the defense and promotion of liberal professionals, freelancers and consultants, understood as the “holders of qualifications of an intellectual nature, including those of artistic and cultural, promoting their responsibility, autonomy and independence in the best interests of consumers and the community in general”.

Our reflection is as follows:

The organization of work is undergoing profound changes. Liberal professionals and alike, freelancers and consultants, will take an even more relevant role in the new realities that are affirming themselves.

In the European Economic Area, one in six self-employed workers works in a sector related to the liberal professions, and the trend is to increase.

In Portugal, despite the fact that there are already over 400,000 regulated professionals and more than 200,000 exercising qualified but unregulated professional activities, we see self-employed professionals without proper representation and defense of their interests in the economic, fiscal and social protection areas.

It is time to face and change this situation.

Only when they are properly heard and recognized, will it help to mitigate the tendency of proletarianization and remunerative degradation of these professionals and their consequences, such as the affectation of the quality in the provision of the respective services as freelancers as well in companies and organizations.

Thus, starting with the foundations, it is essential to implement the Statute of the Liberal Professional, so that around it a European and national legislative and regulatory building is consolidated allowing the integration, valorization and framing of these professionals.

A statute that recognizes in liberal and equivalent professionals a different form of practice, not only by specific training and qualifications, but above all by technical autonomy and independence, based on professional, corporate and organizations ethics, in many aspects an interdisciplinary ethics, oriented to the best interests of consumers and the community in general.

A Statute that integrates and contemplates essential aspects such as, among others:

  • guarantee of equity in the applicable taxation
  • adequate social protection in unemployment and underemployment
  • the existence of civil and professional liability insurance, illness assistance and accidents at work
  • parenting support
  • specificity in retirement and other pensions
  • work life balance
  • access to continuous and postgraduate training
  • intellectual property defense
  • sustainability and environmental protection
  • acquisition and consolidation of digital skills
  • integration and recognition of migrant’s qualifications
  • and finally, recognition of new professions and activities as well as emerging forms of work

Having observed this framework of basic requirements, we will be able to accommodate in this Statute, not only those who exercise the classic liberal professions, some of them organized in public and private professional associations, but also a set of other professionals who have been affirming the relevance of their activities in the economy and in various sectors and areas of knowledge, consultants, freelancers and digital nomads.

It should be recalled that the professional associations regulating in several countries specific aspects relating to the particular professions organized in them are faced with limitations imposed by different European and competition legislation, with regard to the approach of important aspects affecting their professionals:

in particular the impediment to engage in or participate in trade union activities or which relate to the regulation of the economic activities of its members.

However, an important part of the challenges and problems that affect liberal professionals are precisely related to these “prohibited” areas, for example, hiring modalities, wage or fee issues.

On the other hand, trade unions do not incorporate the concept of liberal profession in Portugal. Now, this omission also contributes, in addition to the social emptiness resulting from leaving hundreds of thousands of professionals without a voice.

There is a different and deeply unfair treatment in Portugal and many European countries between employees and self-employed professionals. It is essential for liberal professionals to implement their own Statute. So that some don’t remain “more equal” than others.

The ANPL is a structure that aims to help fill this gap, available to establish partnerships at national, European and global level, thus contributing to give voice to liberal professionals.

Orlando Monteiro da Silva

President of the National Association of Liberal Professionals

Health and Regulation Consultant

Past President of the World Dental Federation

European Union Transparency Register 742011744953-87 

Visit us at https://anpl.pt/en/.

Article originally published in the Observador newspaper.

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