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ESPN Synthesis Report on “Access to social protection for people working on non-standard contracts and as self-employed in Europe: A study of national policies”

11 May 2017


Despite a number of recent national reforms which seek to improve their social protection, the self-employed still have lower coverage and benefits than salaried workers, and run a much higher risk of falling into poverty, according to a new Synthesis Report by the European Social Policy Network (ESPN)

The report

  • describes the social and labour market situation of the self-employed and non-standard workers in 35 European countries;.
  • analyses their statutory and effective access to the main social protection schemes;.
  • identifies recent national reforms aimed at extending social protection to these categories of workers.

It shows that non-standard workers have in general “high” statutory access to social protection schemes whereas the picture is less clear for the self-employed whose access to insurance-based schemes varies considerably among countries. Even when non-standard workers and the self-employed are formally covered by a social protection scheme, they often fail to have effectiveaccess to it because eligibility criteria are not tailored to them.

European Pillar of Social Rights

Structural and crisis-driven economic and labour market transformations in Europe have resulted in an increase in non-standard work and new forms of self-employment as well as an upsurge in transitions from one labour market status to another — with great variations between countries, sectors, age groups and gender. In this context, European social protection systems are facing growing challenges in covering social risks for these workers.

The report draws on the national Thematic Reports prepared by the 35 ESPN Country Teams. It will serve as a background document for the first phase of the consultation of Social Partners on a possible action addressing the challenges of access to social protection for non-standard workers and self-employed in the framework of the European Pillar of Social Rights (launched on 26 April 2017).