The suicide attempt of a Romanian construction worker and strikes organized by Romanian workers on construction sites in Cologne and Dusseldorf this year have pulled the alarm on the risks of "autonomous workers" in the EU. A series of German firms, many of them active in construction works, are using illegal practices to obtain cheap labor. Dr. Ortwin Weltrich, head of the Cologne Chamber of trades, believes 90% of these one-employee firms fall in the bulk of self-employed professionals.

A large number of people from countries that have recently joined the EU who came to work in Germany have become part of the grey zone of labor as they are suspected of trying to breach German labor law. According to Dr. Weltrich, there are some 2000 cases of illegal workers only in the region of Bonn/Koln.

It is largely believed that this form of self-employment is a new form of slavery as work done is often paid with under five euro per hour.

The Cologne Chamber of trades qualifies as irresponsible the way the labor office in Siegburge has registered 157 requests of self-employment from Romanian citizens. None complies with the legal demands a small firm has to comply with, Weltrich believes.

In Germany, autonomous work is not the same with self-employment, the latter of which includes practicing scientific, artistic, journalistic and educational work.