On 20 November 2017, only days after the official adoption of the Proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, the European Commission launched a public consultation on a possible EU action addressing the challenges of access to social protection for people in all forms of employment, as a concrete step forward in making the Social Pillar a reality on the ground. This initiative follows a two-phase consultation of the social partners, and is based on a background document, summarising the main challenges identified by the European Commission.
By the Commission’s own estimate, in 2016, just below 40% of employed people in the EU were in non-standard employment or self-employed, half of whom were at risk of not having sufficient access to social protection and related employment services. Given the rapid changes in today’s labour market, new and highly flexible forms of employment, as well as multiple job changes during one’s career and the rise of self-employment, leave more and more people outside safety nets, in situations of economic uncertainty, precariousness, inequality, poverty, and social exclusion. In its own words, “The Commission wants to explore ways of providing as many people as possible with social security cover, including self-employed and gig-economy workers.”
EAPN welcomes the proposal, which stems from an explicit recognition that rights and obligations associated with social protection have been insufficiently developed for people in self-employment or non-standard employment. In its response to the public consultation (which closed on 15 January), EAPN highlights the following crucial aspects:
– Social protection should not be restricted to those in work, but cover risks of all throughout the lifecycle, regardless of employment status. Adequate social protection for all, providing for lives in dignity for both those who can and cannot work, is the cornerstone of both an inclusive Europe, free of poverty, as well as a sustainable recovery, as per the EPSR principles.
– This initiative must not implicitly encourage an employer culture when insecure contracts proliferate, nor a highly segmented labour market where unstable work is the norm. While reinforcing income security and providing adequate coverage for all workers, and particularly those in precarious employment, is crucial, quality and sustainability of work and employment, stable contracts and adequate pay and social security contributions.
– The responsibility of providing adequate social protection rests with contractual relations and the welfare state. EAPN denounces any attempt to shift responsibility to the individual, or to move towards a private insurance system of social protection. Benefits like health and family care should be redistributive, not contributive.
– Coverage by adequate social security must be mandatory. As identified in the background paper, lack of information about one’s rights, or difficulty in tackling the associated red tapes, are strong deterrents in the redistribution of rights and resources. All workers, regardless of type of contractual arrangement or other distinction, must benefit from the same portable employment rights and entitlements, and mandatory coverage by adequate social protection.
– No trade-off between coverage and adequacy. While striving to not leave anybody behind, all benefits must be set at a level which affords recipients and their families a life in dignity, avoiding a situation where providing for more people results in lower levels of income support.
For more information, please contact Amana Ferro, (Senior Policy Officer) firstname.lastname@example.org