The Future of Social Protection

What Works for Non-standard Workers?

image of The Future of Social Protection

Social protection systems are often still designed for the archetypical full-time dependent employee. Work patterns deviating from this model – be it self-employment or online "gig work" – can lead to gaps in social protection coverage. Globalisation and digitalisation are likely to exacerbate this discrepancy as new technologies make it easier and cheaper to offer and find work online, and online work platforms have experienced spectacular growth in recent years. While new technologies and the new forms of work they create bring the incomplete social protection of non-standard workers to the forefront of the international policy debate, non-standard work and policies to address such workers’ situation are not new: across the OECD on average, one in six workers is self-employed, and a further one in eight employees is on a temporary contract. Thus, there are lessons to be learned from country experiences of providing social protection to non-standard workers. This report presents seven policy examples from OECD countries, including the "artists’ insurance system" in Germany or voluntary unemployment insurance for self-employed workers in Sweden. It draws on these studies to suggest policy options for providing social protection for non-standard workers, and for increasing the income security of on-call workers and those on flexible hours contracts.


Australia: Providing social protection to non-standard workers with tax financing

Changes in the nature of work and labour market regulation pose challenges to social protection systems relying on social insurance contributions. In contrast, the Australian system of social protection relies on general government revenue rather than social security contributions. In this system, some of the vulnerabilities of the social insurance state may not be so salient, but other challenges and trade-offs exist. In particular, Australia has been described as a “wage-earner’s welfare state” (Castles, 1985), with social protection linked to employment conditions, including relatively high minimum wages, paid sick, care, parental and holiday leave, workers compensation and mandatory occupational pensions. As in social insurance states, changes in the nature of work could potentially undermine these features of the Australian social protection system. A further difference is that the Australian social security system is highly income-tested, with spending being more targeted to the poor than any other OECD country. Administration of income-testing becomes more complicated if patterns of work become irregular or other circumstances, such as multiple job holding become common. This chapter assesses Australian employment and social security policies and institutions to identify strengths and weaknesses of the Australian approach to social security.


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