AGE has responded to a consultation of the European Commission on access to social protection for workers in irregular employment statuses. The consultation is part of the initiative on the European Pillar of Social Rights and seeks to find ways to accommodate social protection needs with the evolving world of work. AGE’s view is that all workers should have access to social protection on equal terms, and that an EU initiative in this field could improve social protection coverage and take-up across EU countries and eventually ensure rights, dignity and income security in later life.
New forms of employment and gaps to social protection
‘New forms of employment’ are for example activities developed via online personal transport or food delivery services, heavily relying on formal self-entrepreneurship, but also on less formal types of employment such the model of ‘mini jobs’ exempt of social contributions. In the past, a rise of these new forms of employment has been noted, especially since the financial and economic crisis. Many of these non-standard workers face challenges in accessing social protection: without paying social contributions voluntarily, workers are not covered by social insurances such as health and pension insurance. Occupational accidents, unemployment and other social protection benefits might not be accessible to them either.
Social protection: also a challenge for ‘economically inactive’ people
In our response, AGE agrees with the European Commission that there are multiple challenges in the access to social protection, including a lack of formal or effective coverage, regulatory complexity and the insufficient transparency of rights. AGE highlights that, while this is an important matter for non-standard employment relationships, the question of accessing social protection arises even stronger in a life-course perspective and looking at periods outside of employment and formal job-search, such as care. AGE reiterated its position calling for a Council recommendation on social protection and services for carers.
Call for mandatory social protection across different forms of employment
The European Commission wishes to explore different possibilities in encouraging the take-up of social protection by workers in non-standard employment, including giving incentives to register for social protection, making registration voluntary or mandatory. For AGE, social protection should be mandatory for all employment relationships, otherwise there is a risk that low-income workers will opt out – with the result that those who need protection most will be the least protected. Ideally, a single social protection scheme should cover all people in employment, regardless of their form of employment. To encourage self-entrepreneurs, it could be envisaged to have temporary support or incentives for them, if they are reduced in time. The overall aim of public policy should be to enable the access to social protection to the largest number of people.
Although non-standard employment might create new jobs, this type of employment, which is not covered by social protection, should not create competition with standard employment. Therefore, standard and non-standard employment should be treated equally in the contributions and mandatory enrolment to social protection schemes.
The potential of an EU initiative
An EU initiative – while respecting existing national practices of social dialogue – should generate deeper reflection on the right to social security in the context of changing employment models and working conditions. In turn, it would address the question of the right to income security across the whole life span and enhance this right in practice in accordance with human rights instruments and international labour standards. For AGE, an EU initiative could cover the definition of minimum criteria to acquire, preserve and transfer social protection rights both within employment relationships and between member states. The creation of individual accounts for social protection could be an interesting starting point for this. However EU initiatives should first focus on areas already covered by the EU directive on the coordination of social security before working on common definitions to extend them.
For comments or questions, please contact Philippe Seidel from AGE’s Secretariat at email@example.com