” Very violent. “ These are the words of François Hurel, the president of the Union des autoentrepreneurs (UAE), to describe the « choc » of the crisis on the self-employed. In 2019, self-entrepreneurship was flourishing: a record number of business creations (over 815,000), positive turnover, strong dynamism in all sectors … More than 1.71 million individuals held the status of autoentrepreneur, according to the Central Agency of Social Security Organizations (Acoss). An increase of 26% over one year. The coronavirus and confinement have more than darkened the picture.
According to an OpinionWay poll conducted for the UAE, 83% of self-employed workers were forced to stop their activity during the shutdown of the economy. One in two entrepreneurs lost more than 50% of their turnover, over one year, in March 2020. “If it had not been for state aid, 60% of autoentrepreneurs, who have no cash flow, would not have overcome the crisis”, underlines Grégoire Leclercq, president of the National Federation of Autoentrepreneurs (FNAE).
“Real desire for recovery”
However, for the presidents of the FNAE and the UAE, the aids put in place by the government to help the independents keep their heads above water – solidarity funds, extension of payment periods, loans guaranteed by the ‘State (PGE)… – “Stopped too quickly” and “Had too restrictive criteria”.“We should have encouraged the recovery while keeping a minimum of aid. And many autoentrepreneurs were not entitled to the EMP ”, says François Hurel. In the end, only 15% of autoentrepreneurs obtained or applied for a loan. Ditto for the solidarity fund, which is now only available to certain self-employed, “Especially tourism and culture”, explains Grégoire Leclercq.
Almost three months after deconfinement, the challenge for microenterprises is to “Succeed in passing the course of health security” and of “Regain customer confidence”. « Many activities are done “face to face”, requiring sanitary measures. But there is a real desire for recovery ”, emphasizes the UAE. In May, more than 80% of self-employed people said they were ready to start again. Yet, facing “A very, very slow recovery”, Grégoire Leclercq remains skeptical: “ Activity will not resume among autoentrepreneurs until that of SMEs has restarted. “
“Difficult to find a market”
If the first semester has not proved to be very successful in terms of the birth of microenterprises, the end of the year could be accompanied by a “Considerable number of new autoentrepreneurs, perhaps 200 or 300,000”, according to the president of the UAE: “ People are going to create activities for themselves, because there is no work. Even by exempting the charges, companies are not going to hire. “ A scenario deemed possible by Grégoire Leclercq, since “People employed today but made redundant tomorrow due to restructuring could switch to business creation”, but that he qualifies: “A lot of autoentrepreneurs themselves risk going bankrupt and, even if there is business creation, they will have a hard time finding a market. “
The potential increase in the number of entrepreneurs raises the question of the growing insecurity of the professional world, autoentrepreneurs not yet having a fixed legal status or strong social protection . « The allowance for the self-employed needs to be reviewed ”, insists the president of the FNAE, who also advocates “A fund like the solidarity fund, which would make it possible to have reserves not based only on the State. ” The UAE has already planned future consultations with Alain Griset, the Minister responsible for SMEs , so that “The independents are not forgotten in the recovery plan. “ The FNAE must also submit a White Paper to the government at the end of the summer, to demand “ an “independent” component included in the youth plan, and in everything that will be undertaken after the crisis. “