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.


Ensuring social protection for non-standard workers

This chapter sets out by presenting the main challenges of covering non-standard workers in contributory social protection systems. It then discusses the advantages and pitfalls of two basic ways in which social protection systems could adapt to these challenges: by tying entitlements to individual workers rather than employment relationships or by doing the opposite and untying benefits from contributions. The chapter offers theoretical considerations and practical country experiences in offering voluntary social protection to non-standard workers, and looks at how social security contributions themselves can be a driver of non-standard work. It then presents two examples of special schemes for non-standard workers, and discusses the emerging challenge of improving the social protection and job quality of platform workers. Finally, it draws policy lessons on improving the social protection of non-standard workers and enhancing the income security of the increasing number of on-demand and flexible hours workers.


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