Monitoring to be expanded

VS – 10/2023

At the meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) on 9 October, the Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs adopted for the first time a set of conclusions on social protection solely concerning the self-employed. The common goal is to close the gaps in coverage that still exist in the Member States. Thus, the European Commission and the Member States are called upon to take action as needed. In doing so, the ministers emphasised the importance of the self-employed as key players in the European economy and innovation, whose social security must be guaranteed.

Common goal with a long history

Ensuring adequate social protection for all workers has been discussed at the European level for many years. The European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) emphasises in Principle 12 that workers and - under comparable conditions - the self-employed are entitled to adequate social protection, regardless of the nature and term of their employment. The Council included this in its 2019 Recommendation and the European Commission published the first report on the implementation of the Recommendation on 31 January.

Large gaps in protection of the self-employed

The European Commission's January report shows that there are major gaps in the social protection of the self-employed in particular in the Member States. Thus, in 2022, the self-employed had no access to all branches of social protection in more than half of the Member States. The report also emphasises the low utilisation in social protection areas where access to social protection is voluntary for the self-employed.

Monitoring should identify gaps

In March, the Spanish Minister of Social Affairs, José Luis Escrivá, together with the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Frank Vandenbroucke, announced an initiative on access of atypical workers and the self-employed to social protection. A continuation of the European Commission's reporting on the implementation of the Council Recommendation was suggested. The Council conclusions no longer provide for this, but focus on the further development of the Monitoring framework on access to social protection. The analyses on social protection of the self-employed based on the monitoring will then be systematically included in all relevant reports of the Social Protection Committee, such as the Joint Employment Report.

In this context, the ministers place a special focus on the actual protection of the self-employed. To this end, the monitoring framework is to be further developed. This applies both to the actual coverage in the various branches of social protection and to the scope of benefits for the self-employed.

Monitoring no longer focuses on identifying best practice and learning from each other. Instead, progress in closing gaps in social protection should be constantly evaluated.

Raising awareness of social security for the self-employed

The Council sees another focus in raising awareness among the self-employed on the topic of social protection. Furthermore, access to social protection systems is to be improved through information geared towards the self-employed as well as user-friendly digitisation of the various areas of social protection.