The Future of Social Protection

What Works for Non-standard Workers?

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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.



Netherlands: non-standard work and social protection

Over the last decades, the share of non-standard work in The Netherlands has grown substantially and it is now among the highest of all OECD-countries. Approximately one in three workers work in a non-standard work arrangement (including own-account or temporary work, variable hours contracts and agency work). In the current Dutch institutional setting, firms can save social contributions, severance payments, re-integration obligations and tedious administrative procedures by hiring people as own account workers or, to a lesser extent, through one of the other non-standard work arrangements. By using temporary work arrangements, for example, employers can circumvent employment protection legislation – i.e. severance payments and time-consuming procedures to ask for permission to dismiss – and sickness related payments and re-integration obligations that end upon the end date of the contract. If policy makers wish to reduce the share of non-standard work arrangements, they should aim to reduce incentives to hire workers on non-standard contracts, by reducing differences in taxes and social security coverage between non-standard and standard work.


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