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.



Austria: How social protection rules affect self-employed and independent contractors

The social protection of people in non-standard forms of employment has been a political issue in Austria since the mid-1990s. Non-standard workers have been integrated into the general social insurance system through a series of reforms, with the declared goal of preventing evasion from compulsory insurance and integrating all types of earned income from employment into social security. These reforms are likely to have contributed to a substantial reduction in the number of independent contractors. However, the number of self-employed tradespeople and of so-called “new self-employed” continued to rise and there are some indications that this to some degree compensated for the reduction in the number of independent contractors. Tradespeople and the new self-employed in most cases benefit from lower statutory insurance contributions than for those in standard dependent employment, which may imply a financial incentive to opt for these forms of employment. Furthermore, the lack of unemployment insurance coverage, in the case of self-employed people, and comparatively low employment stability and often low incomes, in the case of self-employed people and independent contractors, increase the likelihood that people in these types of employment later become (partly) dependent on tax-financed basic financial security.


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