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.



Sweden: Voluntary unemployment insurance

There is an ongoing debate in OECD countries on how to provide social insurance coverage for non-standard workers. A possible solution is government subsidised voluntary social insurance. Such programs are common in Sweden. However, voluntary social insurance programs for non-standard workers – notably unemployment insurance – face several challenges that need to be addressed for such programs to function satisfactorily. The most salient is how the risk of voluntary quits is managed. This chapter reviews how Swedish social insurance programs square with non-standard work arrangements. It finds that the bar to access voluntary unemployment insurance is higher for non-standard workers, mainly since it is hard to establish that a job loss is involuntary. Non-standard workers are also not covered in collective bargained social insurance schemes, most notably occupational pensions, which account for 25% of total pensions. A further conclusion is that for voluntary programs to work, the rate of subsidies provided by the government must be sufficiently high. Data from Sweden show that otherwise premiums will be high causing insurance coverage to fall.


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