Members States should regulate new forms of employment and guarantee access to social security, says the EESC

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Digitisation has brought about significant changes in the labour market and workers engaged in new forms of employment are often excluded from accessing social security. In an opinion adopted at the December plenary session, the EESC urges Member States to regulate new forms of work and guarantee access to pensions, health and unemployment systems to these "new workers".

New forms of employment arising from digitisation should be regulated by Member States, especially in light of the current and future threats to accessing social security faced by these workers. This is the main message from the EESC own-initiative opinion adopted at the 530th plenary session on 6 December 2017 and drafted by rapporteur Petru Sorin Dandea (Workers' Group) of the Section for Employment, Social affairs and Citizenship (SOC).

"It is now high time for the European Commission to develop the appropriate framework to be used by its Member States", said Mr Dandea. "With regard to social security contributions, an intervention at EU level is absolutely necessary. We need legislation to make sure that people who are not yet recognised as workers are covered by social security systems".

The impact of digitisation on the labour market

Digitisation has brought about and will continue to create significant changes in our societies at national, regional and global level. The labour market has been deeply affected by it and various new forms of employment have emerged, such as zero-hours and "on-demand" contracts. These new forms of work are often managed by "digital platforms", where the relation between workers and employers is not clear, being based on just an informal agreement between the two parties. This often results in workers having no access to social security and protection, as there is no longer an individual labour contract between employees and employers.

It is precisely this regulated relationship that lead to the creation of social security systems in Europe more than half a century ago. These systems are based on three main pillars: pensions, health and unemployment insurance. At present, social security and social protection systems are being increasingly put under pressure as a growing number of workers from the so‑called "baby-boom" generation gradually exit the labour market and are often replaced by workers engaged in new forms of employment and thus paying no contributions into these systems.

Practical measures

The EESC therefore calls on the EU and its Member States to take the following measures:

  • "Worker" status

regulate these new forms of employment, in order to clearly identify the employer and the employee and grant the status of "worker" to any person engaged in a "new form of work".

  • Pensions, health and unemployment

oblige individuals working in new forms of employment to pay contributions for any registered professional income, so that people who are not yet recognised as workers are covered by social security systems.

  • Linking up social security and tax data systems

link up their electronic social security and tax databases, so that people with professional income, but whose "worker" status has not been recognised, can be identified. In other words, the workers who are not insured under public pension, health and unemployment insurance systems would become identifiable and be given help to access these basic welfare provisions.

  • Funding of social security systems

explore new ways of funding social security systems. For instance, part of the digitisation dividend could be used to guarantee access to social security to people engaged in new forms of work. This would also contribute to the sustainability of social security systems in the future.

Framework for action at EU level

Moreover, the EESC urges the European Commission and the EU Member States to include the issue of new forms of employment in the legislative provisions and non-legislative measures to be delivered by the European Pillar of Social Rights recently adopted by the EU.