by Markus Ruck

The world of work is undergoing major changes. Digitalization and automation have facilitated the emergence of new forms of employment, such as work on digital platforms, and have led in some countries to an increase in on-call employment or other forms of temporary and part-time employment, as well as dependent self-employment and temporary agency work, often referred to as non-standard forms of employment.

While such forms of employment may provide greater flexibility to enterprises, for workers they often translate into lower and volatile earnings and higher levels of income insecurity, inadequate or unregulated working conditions, and no or limited social security entitlements. Such new forms of employment are not limited to high income countries. In many middle-income countries a growing class of unprotected workers in new forms of employment now co-exists with a large number of workers engaged in traditional forms of work such as subsistence agriculture.

Changing work and employment relationships, alongside weakening labour market institutions, have contributed to growing levels of inequality and insecurity in many parts of the world and to weakening the implicit social contract in many societies. Growing precarization calls for greater attention to employment, wage and social protection policies to ensure that the fruits of economic growth are shared on a more equitable basis  In this context, social protection and its potential to reduce and prevent poverty as well as to address inequality remain as relevant as ever (SDG targets 1.3, 5.4 and 10.4).

Various policy options are being discussed on how social protection systems can adapt to the changing nature of work and close social protection gaps.