First published in 1948, the International Social Security Review is the principal international quarterly publication in the field of social security.
Articles by leading social security experts present international comparisons and in-depth discussions of topical questions and studies of social security systems in different countries.
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Abstracts (Special issue: July-September 2019, Volume 72, Issue 3)
Introduction: Social security and the digital economy – Managing transformation
This special issue of the International Social Security Review considers the multidisciplinary topic of the digital economy and social security. The selected articles that comprise this issue offer a number of varying perspectives on the changing and increasingly complex environment in which social security institutions operate and critically assess not only how social security institutions are likely to be impacted but also how they may respond to the challenges foreseen. Social security institutions do not have control over external factors that can negatively impact the financing and coverage of social security programmes. Nonetheless, with the shift to the digital economy, the task at hand is to manage an unprecedented process of change. Though ensuring service continuity is the primary concern, also required are improvements in service delivery for all stakeholders and the development of responses to meet new operational challenges and emerging coverage risks. Particularly in more developed economies, the socio-economic challenges that accompany the labour market changes associated with the transition to the digital economy are often characterized as threatening a risk of growing precarity. Regardless, the global policy goal remains one of ensuring sustainable and adequate social security protection for all.
Social protection systems and the future of work: Ensuring social security for digital platform workers
Digitalization is transforming societies and economies worldwide at an unprecedented scale and pace. In the wake of automation and digitalization, new forms of employment have been emerging in various occupations and sectors, such as the digital platform economy. The emergence of new forms of employment, such as work on digital platforms, requires that existing social protection systems adapt to the specific situation and needs of such workers, as to realize the human right to social security for all. Current social protection coverage for workers on digital crowdwork platforms reveals significant gaps in social security coverage. Where such coverage exists, it is often provided through the workers’ previous or additional jobs, or indirectly through their spouses or other family members. This raises questions about digital platforms free riding on the traditional economy with regard to the financing of social security. How can social protection systems adapt to changing forms of work to ensure full and effective coverage for workers in all forms of employment, including those in “new” forms of employment? How can workers in all types of employment, including those on digital platforms, be protected in an adequate and comprehensive way, combining contributory and non-contributory mechanisms and based on equitable and sustainable financing mechanisms, so as to ensure adequate social protection to all?
Global employment and decent jobs, 2010–2030: The forces of demography and automation
Globally, an estimated 734 million jobs will be required between 2010 and 2030 to accommodate recent and ongoing demographic shifts, account for plausible changes in labour force participation rates, and achieve target unemployment rates of at or below 4 per cent for adults and at or below 8 per cent for youth. The facts that most new jobs will be required in countries where “decent” jobs are less prevalent and workers in many occupations are increasingly subject to risks of automation further compound the challenge of job creation, which is already quite sizable in historical perspective. Failure to create the jobs that are needed through 2030 would put currently operative social security systems under pressure and undermine efforts to guarantee the national social protection floors enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The digital economy and the future of European welfare states
As a consequence of new technology, labour markets are changing. This article’s central aim is to discuss variations among welfare states in Europe to adjust to changing labour markets. These variations in adjustment suggest that some welfare states are more prepared than others, including their capacity to ensure their sustainable financing. In the years to come, the predicted impact of technological development on labour markets will be huge. Impacts will include stronger “dualization” and new cleavages between “insiders” and “outsiders”. Fewer industrial jobs are to be expected, and service-sector employment faces a risk of decline due to automation. While the creation of new jobs is likely, it remains to be seen whether these will replace the number of jobs destroyed, leaving the risk that many people whose skills become obsolete will become unemployed in the short as well as the longer term. Furthermore, even if the same number of jobs are eventually created, there will be a period of transition. In the light of this, welfare states will be challenged, not only in how they can finance their activities but also in terms of the threat posed to social cohesion by emerging labour market “winners” and “losers”, with an accompanying higher risk of increasing inequality. The article offers suggestions as to how welfare states may cope with the changes related to the financing of welfare states, and how active labour market policy can be part of the response to help alleviate the expected dramatic changes. Also required is a discussion on the annual average number of hours people will work and how this might be a factor in lower future levels of unemployment.
The regulatory challenge of occupational safety and health in the online platform economy
The online platform economy raises a range of intricate legal questions connected to labour law and social security protection. In particular, the atypical forms of labour relationships used by many online platforms (e.g. multilateral, hyper-temporary, off-site, autonomous), often contractually defined as independent contracting, have challenged the application of labour and occupational health and safety law in many countries across the world, as the application of these norms tends to be dependent on the existence of an “employment relationship”. These developments are compounding the general increase in atypical employment, especially as a result of the 2007–08 financial and economic crisis. It has mostly fallen to courts to resolve the disputes between online platforms and their online platform workers, but some European Union (EU) Member States (such as France) have taken specific legal measures in response to these difficulties. Also, the EU-level as such is becoming increasingly involved, with the Court of Justice’s ruling in the case of Uber providing some guidance on the “employment question”, and a pending legislative initiative on a Directive for Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions which may provide minimum labour protection for online platform workers in the EU. This article analyses the problem of labour law in the online platform economy and surveys the various responses by courts and policy-makers across the EU, which may furthermore set the tone for developments outside the EU in this area.
Work, social protection and the middle classes: What future in the digital age?
The digitization of the economy can be interpreted as an industrial revolution, a series of technological innovations associated with new practices and new business models. As for previous industrial revolutions, a phase involving the destruction of existing systems and structures is driving a profound transformation of the world of work and the development of new sectors of activity and new jobs, including changes in the labour market and in the types of jobs created. This puts into question the position of the middle classes, and presents new challenges for social protection. This article seeks to understand the impacts of digital technology on the economy and employment, including the phenomena of labour market polarization. It describes the new forms of employment and work and analyses the social risks and the likely ramifications for the middle classes in the digital age. In turn, new possibilities for social protection in the digital age are discussed. The article concludes that there is a need to re-evaluate jobs that involve the provision of personal and care services, including to support social investment, to strengthen the future prospects of the weakened middle classes.