Access to social protection: Position of the German Social Insurance

Recommendations to the Member States can be helpful. Concrete solutions must be found at national level.

IW – 05/2017

The European Commission wants all workers to have access to social protection. It has emphasised this several times over the previous months. In the European Pillar of Social Rights published on 26 April, it recommended that Member States guarantee that all workers, includ-ing those in self-employment under comparable conditions, have the right to adequate social protection, regardless of the nature and duration of their employment relationship.  


In order to give a concrete form to this important cornerstone of the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Commission conducted inter alia a survey of the general public. The aim of this consultation is to discuss what form EU action could take with regard to ensuring access to adequate social protection for workers who are self-employed or in non-standard employment. In the European Union, 15% of the working population is self-employed, 20-25% have non-standard work contracts. In many Member States, these people do not have sufficient access to social protection.  


The umbrella associations of the German social insurance system submitted comments as part of this early consultation in which they welcome the current debate on social protection for dif-ferent forms of employment.  


Many self-employed persons do not have sufficient protection via the social security systems because they are either not covered by these systems or only have limited coverage. The same can apply to forms of employment which have resulted from technological changes and which lie in the grey area between self-employment and salaried worker status. As a result, gaps in protection for those affected could occur and there could be additional burden on public welfare systems.  

Concrete solutions must be found at national level

The umbrella organisations of the German social insurance system therefore welcome the discussion initiated by the European Commission on ensuring social protection for all workers and view the consultation with its special focus on non-standard employment and self-employment as the first step towards achieving this. Even though the world of work and traditional employment relationships have changed, people’s need for protection remains the same, so there is clearly a need for action.  


However, according to the German Social Insurance, it is the Member States that must be encouraged to find sustainable solutions within their social security systems at national level. The exact structure of social insurance systems and their adaptation to the changing world of work is the responsibility of the Member States, particularly given the diversity and varying economic robustness of the systems as well as differences in social policies.  

Recommendations to the Member States can be helpful

Nonetheless, in a European single market with free movement of the workforce, these challenges should be tackled together but only within the framework of the given division of competences. Thus, the German Social Insurance welcomes the European Commission’s recommendation for better access to social protection as part of its pillar of social rights. This rec-ommendation and encouraging cooperation between Member States by exchanging best prac-tice can help the Member States to develop social security systems that are adapted to meet these challenges. 


The position paper of the German social insurance is available here