and the use of artificial intelligence are impacting labour markets and are
likely to change them forever. New forms of work are emerging while other jobs
are disappearing. Predictions for the future range from normal shifts in jobs due
to technology through to massive job losses.
Viola, Director-General of the DG for Communication Networks, Content and
Technology, highlighted in a blog post that the structural shift in the nature of jobs requires corresponding
adjustments to education and training. Around 90% of jobs today require at
least basic digital skills. However, around one third of the EU workers lack
these basic skills.
also addressed the impact of digitalisation and the increase in non-standard
forms of work on social security systems and their financing, while also
referring to the Recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed formally
adopted by the Council on 8 November 2019.
Recommendation calls on Member States to make formal access to social
protection benefits available for all workers, regardless of the nature of the
employment relationship. This applies to the following work-related social protection
benefits: unemployment; sickness and healthcare; maternity and equivalent paternity
benefits; invalidity; old age and survivors’ benefits; work accidents and
In the case of the
self-employed, it is recommended that access be made possible at least on a
voluntary basis and, where appropriate, made mandatory. However, the Recommendation
is a legally non-binding document designed to stimulate reforms at national
level. Member States are encouraged to implement the principles contained in
the Recommendation as soon as possible and to present a plan by 15 May 2021
containing information on the measures to be taken at national level.
Director-General Viola said that the growing shift towards non-standard forms
of work is putting pressure on the financing of social protection systems,
including pension and health funds. This financing is largely based on
contributions from traditional employer-employee relationships. The
Recommendation requires the input and hands-on expertise of practitioners as
well as the participation of online platforms in order to be of benefit to
citizens. In addition, there is the issue of simplifying social entitlements,
which are currently very fragmented across different types of workers,
sometimes without obvious logical or functional reasons.
its final report published on 8 April 2019, a high-level expert
group (HLG) on the impact of the digital transformation
on EU labour markets, set up by the European Commission in May 2018, set out
much more far-reaching recommendations.
HLG recommends social protection that is neutral in terms of technology, forms
of employment and self-employment. This could include portable benefits that are
linked to the worker and not to a particular employment relationship, as well
as ‘underemployment insurance’ that takes into account fluctuating incomes.
Neutral social protection should benefit all workers equally, including the
self-employed. While the details may vary between EU Member States, this is an
important policy initiative that the HLG believes should be planned and agreed
at European level.
a report published by the European Policy Centre (EPC) in December 2019 warns against
prematurely abandoning the foundations of past decades. This is a risky
undertaking with serious consequences for individuals and society as a whole because
a viable solution that ensures a balance between the greater need for social
protection and adequate financial resources has yet to be found.
report also discusses the possibility of financing social protection through
taxation. Theoretically, a system financed purely through general taxation is
possible. However, according to the authors, this raises the question of
whether this would lead to a fair balance of responsibilities between workers
and employers. The former would still have to pay social contributions, while
it would be extremely difficult to ensure that the latter contribute their fair
share to the public good in return for the labour they use. Another possibility
could be new tax-funded resources coming from taxes on such things as gas
emissions, financial transactions or robots.
authors, however, are doubtful that these sources of revenue would compensate
for the loss of employers’ contributions and fulfil the coverage needs of
future social protection systems. In addition, they would not necessarily
address the issue of employers’ responsibility towards their employees and
their contribution to the public good. Finally, removing the traditional link
between employment and social protection could increase the likelihood of mandatory
contributions being replaced with voluntary contributions, which carries with
it the risk of people opting out of insurance.