A platform worker's income is rarely covered by social insurance

A CEPS study examined business models of platforms.

Dr. S-W – 09/2021

In a study for the European Commission, CEPS (Centre for European Policy Studies) provided a very informative overview of the business models of EU's digital working platforms. The chapter on working conditions is especially important from a social security perspective.

Platforms that are active in several Member States usually try to apply their business model uniformly in all of them - this includes classifying the employment status of the people working through these platforms. For example, all drivers of the Takeaway group (including Lieferando in Germany and Thuisbezorgd in the Netherlands) are employed as workers, whereas this is not the case with other platforms such as Deliveroo or UberEats. A special case is the Wolt platform, which generally only works with self-employed drivers, but in Germany it treats its drivers as employees.

A key finding of the study was that about 80% of the platforms exclusively appoint or place self-employed personnel. The market share of these platforms is so large that approximately 95% of all platform workers' income is generated through them. This clearly shows that, despite some isolated opposing trends, the vast majority of platform workers still work as self-employed people, albeit perhaps only as pseudo self-employed. Only a small number of platforms work with dependent employees and this is almost exclusively in locally-based delivery services. This is precisely the sector in which court decisions have repeatedly re-qualified the status in favour of an employment relationship.

The consequence of the predominant self-employed classification is that only an insignificantly small percentage of platform workers are covered by unemployment insurance, which means that 97% of all incomes are not protected. Exceptions are found mainly in Germany and the Netherlands. Similar conditions are found in other branches of social insurance, again with one exception: accident insurance. As many as 23% of platforms offer accident insurance to their self-employed platform workers, e.g. in partnership with the AXA insurance company. The study explicitly left open whether the level of this coverage is comparable to that of statutory accident insurance.