With major changes to how we work, our institutions are quickly becoming unfit for purpose. More and more workers find themselves excluded from the social protection or educational systems. A new report sheds light on what can be done to bridge this gap.

This article was authored by Menno Bart, the Adecco Group’s Public Affairs Manager.

 

For months we have been witnessing a remarkable transformation of our workplaces due to COVID-19. But while the pandemic crisis may only be temporary, some of the changes it has brought about or accelerated in the world of work will become permanent. One of those is the emphasis on the ever more diverse forms of work, including temporary, agency, and platform work. The most recent ‘Reshaping Work’ report takes a more in-depth look at how these diverse forms of work could be integrated into our existing structures of social protection and educational systems as well as our other institutions.

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According to the World Economic Forum, the post-COVID era will be shaped more by technology than any other force. This will result in radical shifts to our workplaces, which will manifest through five areas: (1) Work from anywhere, (2) Work for all, (3) Work at will, (4) Work smarter, and (5) Work for the planet.

 

The more hybrid way of working that will make it easier for employees to split their time between working remotely and working from their office and the technological revolution that will enable more of the short-term and on-demand positions will put more spotlight on the more diverse and non-traditional forms of work.

 

But are our institutions ready for such a shift? The recent 'Reshape Work' report titled 'Advancing the quality of work and working conditions in the EU' argues that more needs to be done to accommodate the growing number of temporary, agency, and platform workers.

 

In the ‘Future of Work Project’, Reshaping Work Foundation brought together a broad range of labour market players, including NGO’s and trade unions, gig economy companies, and the HR solutions industry represented by the Adecco Group to develop actionable insights and policy recommendations on how to bridge the gap between our existing institutions and workers excluded by these very same institutions. These discussions are particularly pertinent as we expect European proposals for rules on the platform economy later this year.

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Reforming our institutions: Key policy recommendations


The report’s author, Jovana Karanovic, Founder of Reshaping Work, comments: “Our research shows that we need to reform our institutions to be fit for purpose and to adapt to the new work realities. In this regard, a collaborative approach is needed among all relevant stakeholders, including businesses, trade unions, advocacy groups, and academics.”

 

Contributing to this ongoing and urgently needed debate, the 'Reshape Work' report highlights three key areas that need the most attention:

 

#1. Access to good quality work


Diverse forms of work present many opportunities for workers because they have relatively low entry barriers and could provide almost immediate income streams. They can also facilitate labour market access for marginalised groups and hence positively contribute towards social inclusion. Finally, temporary work, agency work, or platform work can improve people’s work-life balance. However, not all of these types of work are covered in equal manner by social protection benefits, which may even leave diverse workers more exposed to health and safety risks. Coupled with the fact that self-employed platform workers may face unpredictability in earnings and the fact that remote working can negatively impact one’s social wellbeing, we need novel ways of dealing with such situations.

 

#2. Social protection, rights and benefits


Vulnerabilities around diverse forms of work are often related to self-employed status, which limits workers' access to social protection benefits. Therefore, the report argues it is paramount to expand at least part of these protection programmes to include all types of work regardless of their employment status. The lack of access to social security has manifested itself vividly during the COVID-19 pandemic when many diverse workers have been left with no income to fall back on. To combat this, some measures have been extended universally to all workers. Although temporary, they present an opportunity to revisit our current social system and develop an inclusive one that protects all workers in a systematic and enduring manner. In France and Italy, we can find good examples of how benefit systems can offer protection while not undermine workers' autonomy.

 

#3. Skills and career development


The third area where change is needed to better support diverse forms of work is career development. Access to reskilling and upskilling opportunities can prepare workers for changing market realities, increase their mobility, and reduce dependency on a single work provider. While this responsibility primarily rests with individuals, there is a role both for the private and public sectors in that they can help facilitate career development and life-long learning, develop instruments for recognisability and portability of skills and participate in the financing of training programmes. Initiatives like Individual Learning Accounts can play a key role in this area.

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Key policy recommendations

 

Taking all of the above into account, a number of policy recommendations should be considered. Among those the report underlines the following:

 

  • We need regulatory clarity on workers’ status that balances workers’ autonomy with adequate social protection;
  • Policymakers should assess benefits that diverse forms of employment can offer in the COVID-19 post-recovery period, such as providing quick labour-market access to the unemployed, those in-between jobs, or marginalised groups;
  • They should ensure platform organisations commit to providing transparency in terms of potential earnings, work pattern organisation, and task allocation, as mandated by the new Directive on transparent and predictable working conditions and P2B regulation;
  • We should consider developing infrastructure for issuing, storing, and sharing micro-credentials (e.g. EUROPASS).

 

At the Adecco Group we want to make the Future work for Everyone. We know it is possible to provide solid protection and good quality work to individuals, while also leaving the flexibility for them to organize their lives as they see fit, and provide companies with the freedom to do business in a volatile environment. After all, we do this every day.

 

To access the full Reshaping Work report, please click here.

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