Procedure : 2013/2111(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0459/2013

Texts tabled :

A7-0459/2013

Debates :

PV 13/01/2014 - 25
CRE 13/01/2014 - 25

Votes :

PV 14/01/2014 - 5.14

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2014)0014

REPORT     
PDF 273kWORD 136k
12 December 2013
PE 519.788v02-00 A7-0459/2013

on social protection for all, including self-employed workers

(2013/2111(INI))

Committee on Employment and Social Affairs

Rapporteur: Vilija Blinkevičiūtė

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
 EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
 OPINION OF THE COMMITTEE ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS AND GENDER EQUALITY
 RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

on social protection for all, including self-employed workers

(2013/2111(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to Articles 3(3) and 6(3) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

–   having regard to Articles 9, 53 and 151 to 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

     having regard to Articles 5, 15, 16, 27, 31, 34 and 35 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–   having regard to Articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 11, 12, 13, 19 and 23 of the (Revised) European Social Charter,

–   having regard to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No 102 (1952) concerning Minimum Standards of Social Security,

–   having regard to ILO Convention No 117 (1962) on Social Policy (basic aims and standards),

–   having regard to the ILO Convention No 121 (1964) concerning Benefits in the Case of Employment Injury; Convention No 128 (1967) concerning Invalidity, Old-Age and Survivors’ Benefits; Convention No 130 (1969) concerning Medical Care and Sickness Benefits; Convention No 168 (1988) concerning Employment Promotion and Protection against Unemployment; and Convention No 183 (2000) concerning the revision of the Maternity Protection Convention,

–   having regard to the 2012 ILO recommendation concerning National Floors of Social Protection,

–   having regard to the ILO World Social Security Report (2010/11) on ‘Providing coverage in times of crisis and beyond’(1),

–   having regard to the ILO report of November 2003 on ‘Social protection: A life cycle continuum investment for social justice, poverty reduction and development’(2),

–   having regard to Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the coordination of social security systems(3),

–   having regard to Directive 2010/41/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 July 2010 on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity in a self-employed capacity and repealing Council Directive 86/613/EEC(4),

–   having regard to Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation(5),

–   having regard to the Council Recommendation of 24 June 1992 on common criteria concerning sufficient resources and social assistance in social protection systems (92/441/EEC)(6),

–   having regard to the Council Recommendation of 27 July 1992 on the convergence of social protection objectives and policies (92/442/EEC)(7),

–   having regard to the Council Conclusions of 17 December 1999 on the strengthening of cooperation for modernising and improving social protection(8),

–   having regard to the report of the Social Protection Committee of 10 February 2011 entitled ‘SPC Assessment of the social dimension of the Europe 2020 Strategy’(9),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 3 March 2010 entitled ‘Europe 2020: a strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2010)2020),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 16 February 2012 entitled ‘White Paper – an Agenda for Adequate, Safe and Sustainable Pensions’ (COM(2012)0055),

–   having regard to the Commission Review of 8 January 2013 on ‘Employment and Social Developments in Europe 2012’(10),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 20 August 2012 entitled ‘Social Protection in European Union Development Cooperation’ (COM (2012)0446),

–   having regard to the Commission Green Paper of 22 November 2006 on modernising labour law to meet the challenges of the 21st century (COM(2006)0708),

–   having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 29 April 2010 on ‘New trends in self-employed work: the specific case of economically dependent self-employed work’(11),

–   having regard to the opinion of European Economic and Social Committee of 21 March 2013 on ‘Abuse of the status of self-employed’(12),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 3 October 2008 on a Commission recommendation on the active inclusion of people excluded from the labour market (COM(2008)0639) and its resolution of 6 May 2009 on the active inclusion of people excluded from the labour market(13),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 14 October 2009 (COM(2009)0545) and its resolution of 20 May 2010 on the long-term sustainability of public finances for a recovering economy(14),

–   having regard to its resolution of 6 July 2010 on atypical contracts, secured professional paths, flexicurity and new forms of social dialogue(15),

–   having regard to its resolution of 15 March 2006 on social protection and social inclusion(16),

–   having regard to its resolution of 20 October 2010 on the role of minimum income in combating poverty and promoting an inclusive society in Europe(17),

–   having regard to its resolution of 11 September 2013 on tackling youth unemployment: possible ways out(18),

–   having regard to its resolution of 9 October 2008 on stepping up the fight against undeclared work(19),

–   having regard to its resolution of 23 May 2007 on promoting decent work for all(20),

–   having regard to its resolution of 11 July 2007 on modernising labour law to meet the challenges of the 21st century(21),

–   having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2011 on the future of social services of general interest(22),

–   having regard its resolution of 15 November 2011 on the European Platform against poverty and social exclusion(23),

–   having regard its resolution of 21 May 2013 on an Agenda for Adequate, Safe and Sustainable Pensions(24),

–   having regard to its resolution of 12 June 2013 on the Commission communication entitled ‘Towards Social Investment for Growth and Cohesion – including implementing the European Social Fund 2014-2020’(25),

–   having regard to the study by the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs of May 2013 on ‘Social protection rights of economically dependent self-employed workers’(26),

–   having regard to the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) customised report of 2013 on ‘Self-employed or not self-employed? Working conditions of ‘economically dependent workers’(27),

–   having regard to the Eurofound report of 2 March 2009 on ‘Self-employed workers: industrial relations and working conditions’(28),

–   having regard to the Eurofound comparative report of April 2013 on ‘Social partners’ involvement in unemployment benefit regimes in Europe(29),

–   having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and to the opinion of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (A7-0459/2013),

A. whereas access to social security is a fundamental right which, in accordance with Community law, national laws and practices, is a key element of the European social model; whereas the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has adopted recommendations on ‘national floors of social protection’ with the aim of safeguarding the right of every individual to social security and a decent standard of living;

B.  whereas social security is a national competence, coordinated at EU level;

C. whereas social protection facilitates adaptation to changes in the labour market, combats poverty and social exclusion, secures labour market integration and invests in human resources; whereas social security has a stabilising effect on the economy and an anticyclical function which can boost domestic demand and consumption;

D. whereas, to tackle the crisis, certain Member States have made severe cuts in public expenditure at the same time as demand for social protection has increased in response to the rise in unemployment; whereas national budget allocations for social security cover have been further stretched as contributions have fallen in the wake of wide-scale job losses or wage cuts, thus placing the European social model at a real risk;

E.  whereas social protection coverage in certain Member States is inadequate and could be improved; whereas cases of vulnerable workers being abused in the EU still exist and labour-market compartmentalisation, with varying levels of protection for different contract types and job relationships, leading to social maladjustment and inequality;

F.  whereas while most traditional social protection models, in particular social security and labour law systems, are designed to safeguard the social and employment rights of people in employment, there is a risk that with the new forms of employment which are emerging and with an increasing number of self-employed workers, new groups of workers may be faced with decreased social protection;

G. whereas women who choose to become entrepreneurs cite, more often than men, a better work-life balance and/or economic necessity as the main motivation for their decision;

H. whereas self-employed women are in the minority among self-employed workers, but are more likely to fall into poverty;

I.   whereas a lack of access to adequate pension rights, sick pay, paid leave and other forms of social security for the self-employed aggravates the gender pay gap for self-employed women, especially following retirement;

J.   whereas an increasing number of those who are self-employed or faced with little or badly paid work, in particular women, are falling below the poverty line but are not officially registered as unemployed;

K. whereas it could be useful to lay down a clear definition of bogus self-employment and to prevent abuses in this regard so as to avoid violations of workers’ social rights, distortions of competition and the risk of social dumping;

L.  whereas false self-employment is basically a form of partial contribution evasion that is difficult to detect and undermines the sustainability and adequacy of pension schemes, depriving them of vital resources;

M. whereas the particularly high unemployment levels in many Member States, compounded by the constant pressure to reduce (unit) labour costs are leading to national labour market trends and practices which encourage the further development and growth of false self-employment;

N. whereas, given that the working conditions of those self-employed people who are not economically independent are not radically different from those of salaried workers, their social security and employment rights ought to resemble more closely those of salaried workers where appropriate;

O. whereas there is a lack of reliable, accurate and comparable information and data on the situation, working conditions and social security arrangements for combining work and care as regards the self-employed;

P.  whereas in 2012, self-employment represented more than 15 % of total employment in the EU, while in some cases it is not the preferred option of the person concerned, but rather a necessity owing to a lack of other job opportunities or sufficiently flexible working arrangements to combine work and care for dependents; whereas in many Member States it is difficult for the self-employed to acquire sufficient pension rights, thereby increasing the risk of future poverty for those concerned; whereas economically dependent self-employed workers are rarely organised in or represented by trade unions, even if they are more likely to be victims of working time and other abuses;

Social security for all

1.  Stresses that it is necessary to constantly optimise and modernise social protection systems at Member States level in order to ensure sound, sustainable and adequate social protection for all, based on the principles of universal access and non-discrimination, as well as the capacity to respond in a flexible manner to demographic changes and labour market developments;

2.  Calls on the Member States to ensure responsible and sustainable long-term financing of social security systems, particularly in periods of economic crisis, as well as to develop the preventive arm of social security systems and place greater emphasis on activating measures, while not overlooking the fact that one of the most important aspects of social investments is the fact that they enable the reconciliation of social and economic goals and may contribute in the long term to retaining and developing the economy; considers, in this connection, that social investments should be viewed as just that – investments, rather than expenditure;

3.  Draws attention to the fact that in some Member States ageing populations, low birth rates and changing labour markets may increase the urgency of the need for reforming social security systems, including pensions, so as to guarantee their sustainability; emphasises the fact that women more frequently take career breaks and assume part-time employment than men for the purpose of caring for children and other dependents, which may have a negative impact on their pensions and place them at a greater risk of poverty; calls on the Member States, in this connection, to view these career-break periods as insured periods when establishing and calculating pension entitlements; stresses that reforms should involve social partners, in accordance with national law and practices, as well as relevant stakeholders, and be properly communicated to citizens;

4.  Calls on the Member States to ensure national social protection which will safeguard a decent income established by each country and guarantee access to basic social benefits, particularly in the event of illness, unemployment, maternity, disability and retirement, etc., in order to combat poverty and social exclusion in the Member States; encourages the Member States to draw up strategies for the development of social security in line with the ILO proposals;

5.  Emphasises the fact that effective social protection of a sufficiently high quality should be based on measures to promote participation in employment, which contributes to the improvement of health and safety at work and the enhancement of productivity, which is a major competitive advantage; stresses that lowering the level of social protection should not be seen as a solution paving the way to increased levels of employment;

6.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that all workers and self-employed persons have access to lifelong learning by redistributing existing EU and national funding from workers with permanent contracts only to all workers – including the self-employed – irrespective of their contract type;

7.  Calls on the Member States to make greater efforts to implement structural reforms and measures in order to create jobs for young people and ensure that young workers are not discriminated against through the restriction of their social security entitlements; calls also on the Member States, in cooperation with the Commission, to ensure adequate social protection for young people in traineeship and apprenticeship schemes designed to provide them with work experience;

8.  Stresses that older people are not an economic and social burden but, on the contrary, their experience acquired over a lifetime and their knowledge are an asset; suggests that, in the context of intergenerational solidarity, employees over 60 should be encouraged to remain available on the labour market with a view to transmitting their knowledge and experience to successive generations;

9.  Calls on the Member States to ensure the availability of affordable childcare and education facilities and to ensure access for self-employed workers to public services and relevant tax and social advantages in the area of childcare;

10. Calls on the Member States to facilitate the possibility for all workers, including self-employed workers and any spouses or partners who participate in their activities, to combine work and care responsibilities, including by speeding up the application of Articles 7 and 8 of Directive 2010/41/EU of 7 July 2010, and by providing workers at their request with flexibility regarding working hours, teleworking and part-time work for the purpose of caring for minors and dependants, and to achieve this without any loss in workers’ social benefits so to avoid their having no way of securing flexibility other than resorting to dependent or involuntary self-employment;

11. Highlights the need to provide further training and retraining opportunities to employees, the self-employed and those moving from employment to self-employment; calls on the Member States, in this connection, to remove obstacles to further training and retraining, and to promote lifelong learning for all;

12. Calls on the Member States to promote and facilitate self-organisation among self-employed persons, especially women, in order to increase their ability to defend their collective interests;

13. Calls on the Member States to guarantee adequate social security also for the most vulnerable groups such as the unemployed, the disabled, single-parent families, young families, the young, the elderly and pensioners; calls also on the Member States to ensure that social services are made more accessible for all members of vulnerable social groups and persons with long-term care needs, particularly in rural areas and disadvantaged regions;

14. Calls on the Member States and the Commission, according to their competences, to take steps to combat all forms of discrimination in the labour market, including that against women, and to adopt social protection measures to ensure that women’s pay and welfare entitlements, including pensions, are not lower than those of men doing the same job, to safeguard their maternity entitlements, to take measures to prevent the unfair dismissal of employees during pregnancy and to protect women and men with care responsibilities from unfair dismissal; calls also on the Council to speed up the adoption of the directive concerning the implementation of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of pregnant workers, workers who have recently given birth and women who are breastfeeding;

15. Stresses that Directive 2010/41/EU on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity in a self-employed capacity requires the Member States to tackle all obstacles that prevent women and their spouses or partners recognised under national law from benefiting from the social protection to which they are entitled under that law;

16. Calls on the Member States to take effective action in response to cases involving a lack of social protection in small and very small family enterprises for employed family members, including their spouses (partners), as a result of their unclear and informal terms of employment or them being self-employed;

17. Encourages the Member States to take practical steps to combat poverty and social exclusion, by providing an appropriate minimum income and a social security system, taking into account marginalised communities and those at risk of poverty, in accordance with their own national practices, including provisions set out in collective agreements or national legislation;

18. Calls on Member States to step up their efforts to combat undeclared employment and precarious work, including ‘mini jobs’ and false part-time jobs, and to ensure that all workers enjoy appropriate social protection; deplores, furthermore, the abuse of non-standard employment contracts in order to avoid having to comply with employment and social protection obligations;

19. Calls on the Member States to improve administrative cooperation between the different institutions (labour inspectorates, tax offices, municipal authorities and social security services) at national and EU level, as a means of facilitating the implementation of Union labour law provisions, reducing undeclared work and resolving more effectively the problems caused by disparities between labour market regulatory provisions in the different Member States;

20. Calls on the Commission to review legislation and monitor the implementation and coordination of social security systems, where necessary in respect of the subsidiarity principle, and draws Member States’ attention to the fact that EU migrant workers working in another Member State should not be subjected to discriminatory social protection rules; believes that all EU migrant workers should enjoy adequate social security entitlements and cover when working in another Member State; workers posted in connection with the free movement of services must, prior to their posting, be informed by their employer of pay and working conditions in accordance with Directive 96/71/EC;

21. Invites the Commission and the Member States to strike an appropriate balance between labour market security and flexibility, for example through the global implementation of flexicurity principles, and address labour market segmentation by providing adequate social cover for those in transition or employed under temporary or part-time contacts, while at the same time ensuring access to training opportunities; points out that failure to ensure flexicurity would detract from the sustainability of social security systems, the quality of benefits, workforce earnings and productivity, the real economy and social cohesion, and, as a result, would undermine the EU 2020 Strategy for maintaining and increasing employment levels;

22. Calls on the Commission to conduct an EU-wide study into whether, as a result of recent changes made to Member State labour laws with a view to making the labour market more flexible, employees’ social security cover has not been diminished and the principle of flexibility with security has not been infringed;

23. Strongly supports the proposed establishment of a scoreboard of key employment and social indicators, which could be a first step in identifying concrete benchmarks;

24. Urges the Commission to include in its proposals, where appropriate, the four targets set in the ILO Decent Work Agenda, and to consider the targets set in the ILO Social Protection Floors Recommendation in the annual growth review, so that all workers in Europe may enjoy social protection;

Social security cover for self-employed workers

25. Stresses that self-employment needs to be recognised as a form of work which helps to create jobs and reduce unemployment, and that the expansion of self-employment should go hand-in-hand with appropriate social protection for the self-employed as defined in the Member States’ national legislation;

26. Calls on Member States to facilitate the combination of work and care responsibilities by providing workers with flexibility with regard to working hours and place of work in order to avoid a situation whereby that they have no options for flexibility other than to resort to dependent self-employment;

27. Emphasises the need for more detailed, up-to-date statistics to be made available for the purpose of analysing the economic significance of self-employed workers and the various categories of self-employment; calls also for the inclusion of questions concerning self-employment in the European Union labour force survey;

28. Draws attention to the fact that the absence of a clear national definition of self-employment increases the risk of false self-employment among EU workers and can hamper their access to adequate social security; notes that the different statuses attributed to self-employed workers among the Member States require solutions leading to better coordination of social security for self-employed workers so as not to restrict the free movement of workers;

29. Calls on the Commission to promote exchanges between Member States in order to provide guidance on the different forms of atypical employment and self-employment, so as to assist Member States to properly apply the relevant labour laws and social protection measures to workers so employed; considers it necessary also for Member States to clearly identify false self-employment and sanction employers if such cases are identified and proven; stresses, however, that it should remain the legal responsibility of the host Member State in whose territory the work is carried out to determine employment status;

30. Calls on European social partners, the Commission and the Member States to study the issue of dependent self-employment and find practical solutions thereto, particularly in those sectors where cross-border activities play an important role and among vulnerable groups such as domestic and low-paid workers;

31. Urges Member States to ensure that self-employment does not become a means of preventing workers from benefiting from social and job security or a means for employers to circumvent labour and social security law; requests also that self-employed workers should not be grouped with employed workers, so as to preserve the advantages of self-employment and economic activity of this kind, and to help develop a spirit of entrepreneurship and service quality;

32. Calls on Member States to develop, where necessary, social protection in relation to retirement, disability, maternity/paternity leave and unemployment so that social protection provisions for self-employed workers are better adapted to the needs of those workers and are equivalent to the standard which applies to employed workers;

33. Calls on the Commission and Member States to link social security and social protection rights to the individual rather than the working contract, thereby enabling decent social protection for all, including self-employed and employed workers, regardless of their contract type or employment status;

34. Calls on Member States to promote and support group insurance for occupational accidents and illness; calls on Member States to ensure access to collective and solidarity-based insurance and pension schemes for the self-employed;

35. Calls on Member States to make information available to all citizens regarding their rights to social protection and also to provide appropriate information to those wishing to become self-employed workers on the changes to their social protection and the labour law applicable to them arising from such a change in status, as well as changes in other rights and obligations linked to their economic activity; calls also on the Commission to make information available to the self-employed and mobile workers regarding their rights and obligations in connection with migration, immigration and cross-border work;

36. Calls on the Member States and the Commission to involve social partners, in accordance with national practises, in a process of developing and modernising social protection and to develop the social dialogue at EU and national level; calls also on social partners to place issues linked to the labour rights and social protection of self-employed workers on the agenda, in order to introduce adequate social protection framework provisions for the self-employed, based on reciprocity and the principle of non-discrimination, and analyse if and how self-employed workers should be included in collective bargaining, including specific strategies on how to include the concerns of self-employed workers in cases where national law does not allow for trade union representation of self-employed workers; encourages social partners to exchange good practices among trade unions and professional associations on services provided to the self-employed, fighting bogus self-employment, and organising own-account self-employed workers;

37. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, and the parliaments of the Member States.

(1)

http://www.ilo.org/global/publications/books/WCMS_142209/lang--en/index.htm

(2)

http://www.ilo.org/public/english/protection/download/lifecycl/lifecycle.pdf

(3)

OJ L 166, 30.04.2004, p. 1.

(4)

OJ L 180, 15.07.2010, p. 1.

(5)

OJ L 303, 2.12.2000, p. 16.

(6)

OJ L 245, 26.08.1992, p. 46 .

(7)

OJ L 245, 26.08.1992, p. 49.

(8)

OJ C 8/05, 12.1.2000, p.7.

(9)

http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/11/st06/st06624-ad01.en11.pdf

(10)

http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=738&langId=en&pubId=7315

(11)

OJ C 18, 19.1.2011, p. 44.

(12)

OJ C 161, 6.6.2013, p. 14.

(13)

OJ C 212 E, 5.8.2010, p. 23.

(14)

OJ C 161 E, 31.5.2011, p. 112.

(15)

OJ C 351 E, 2.12.2011, p. 39.

(16)

OJ C 291 E, 30.11.2006, p. 304.

(17)

OJ C 70 E, 8.3.2012, p.8.

(18)

Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0365.

(19)

OJ C 9 E, 15.1.2010, p. 1.

(20)

OJ C 102 E, 24.4.2008, p. 321.

(21)

OJ C 175 E, 10.7.2008, p. 401.

(22)

OJ C 33 E, 5.2.2013, p. 65.

(23)

Texts adopted, P7_TA(2011)0495.

(24)

Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0204.

(25)

Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0266.

(26)

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/studiesdownload.html?languageDocument=EN&file=92570

(27)

http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/htmlfiles/ef1366.htm

(28)

http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/comparative/tn0801018s/tn0801018s.htm

(29)

http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/studies/tn1206018s/tn1206018s_3.htm


EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

I. Social security for all

Social protection is at the heart of the European social model. Its main function is to promote social inclusion and social justice, protect incomes and guarantee high-quality education and healthcare services for all. Each Member States is responsible for its own social protection policy, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. Nevertheless, at EU level an open method of coordination has been established, which involves a voluntary process of political cooperation based on the acceptance of common objectives and indicators. One of the main objectives of social protection is to increase the equity and efficiency of the services, while promoting social inclusion and cohesion, which are the key pillars of inclusive and sustainable growth and poverty reduction. Of course, these objectives are rooted in the fundamental values of the European Union(1).

Societies need effective social protection to meet the challenges of globalisation and to adapt to change. Work-based social insurance remains a vital element of social security systems, but it is not yet guaranteed for all residents. Universal social protection in conformity with International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No 102 on social security (minimum standards), covering all areas of social security to a minimum level of provision, is still not accessible for all. Consequently, the national social protection floor must be guaranteed for everyone. The social protection floor is an integrated social policy which seeks to ensure income and access to basic social services for all residents, paying particular attention to the most vulnerable groups (the unemployed, handicapped people, single-parent families, young people, retired people, young families, etc.). The minimum income also needs to be guaranteed as this plays an important role in redistributing wealth by providing solidarity and ensuring social justice and, particularly in times of economic crisis, having a counter-cyclical role by supplying additional funds to stimulate domestic demand and consumption.

Social security benefits can be considered appropriate if they allow the desired results of a social policy to be achieved, for example if they meet people’s needs by addressing the main risks and help to define the relationship between the level of benefits and the taxes or contributions paid on a lifelong basis, which would be considered a ‘fair’ social adequacy.

Social security systems in Europe should help to provide protection against risks and low incomes, as well as to reduce inequalities in the EU Member States. However, because of persistent economic difficulties associated with the financial crisis, it is necessary to tackle difficult issues regarding the financing of the systems. During the economic crisis, the public finances of the EU Member States have been reduced, while the number of people out of work and in need of social support has grown. Moreover, the substantial rise in unemployment, together with declining wages, has led to a reduction in revenue from social security contributions, thus jeopardising the European social model. It should also be noted that because of pressure on national budgets and cuts in pensions and other social benefits, the most vulnerable people have been affected and have fallen below the poverty threshold. In an effort to overcome the crisis, while priority has been assigned to restructuring budgets, the social-policy dimension has not been sufficiently taken into account, and the Member States have not paid sufficient attention to the social objectives relating to employment and education set in the Europe 2020 Strategy, particularly reducing poverty and social exclusion.

In order to provide lasting and effective social protection, taking account of the ILO’s proposals, Member States should draw up and implement national strategies for the development of social security. One of the most important aims of the social development strategy should be to guarantee social investment and its effectiveness, as it facilitates the coordination of social and economic objectives. Consequently, such use of resources should be regarded not as expenditure but rather as investment in improving performance and in sustainable economic growth.

II. Self-employed workers and their social protection

1. The importance of self-employment as a form of employment, its development and the new forms it takes

The flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy, entitled ‘An Agenda for New Skills and Jobs’, acknowledges that self-employment is a major factor in job creation, requiring Member States to eliminate measures that act as disincentives to self-employment.

Self-employment is growing rapidly, adopting a variety of new forms. In 2012, 32.8 million people in the EU were self-employed, and this represented 15% of total employment in the EU. Self-employment is most common in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Romania. It is least common in Luxembourg, Denmark, Estonia and Lithuania(2). The European Parliament resolution of 6 July 2010 stresses that self-employment is becoming more popular, particularly with young people and women and as a transitional arrangement between employment and retirement(3).

Over the past few decades, there has been a significant change in the self-employed category, which in any case varies widely, depending on the role of the self-employed on the labour market and the nature of their activity. A distinction must also be made in respect of the economically dependent self-employed so as to gain a better insight into the development of self-employed activity, which, in the wake of major social and economic changes, now goes beyond traditionally recognised definitions thereof in the EU Member States(4).

3. No clear definition of self-employed activity exists at European level

Not only does no universally accepted definition of self-employed activity exist at European level, but the situation is further complicated by the variety of activities falling within this category. According to the ILO definition contained in the ‘International Classification by Status in Employment’, self-employment jobs are those jobs where the remuneration is directly dependent upon the profits derived from the goods and services produced. Historically, three main categories of self-employed activity can be distinguished: micro enterprises, small enterprises and freelance activity.

According to the literal definition, self-employed workers are those who work more for themselves than for a third party. While this seems perfectly straightforward, self-employed activity in fact encompasses a much wider range of social and economic situations which cannot be treated in the same way.

No definition applicable throughout the European Union currently makes a clear-cut distinction between the genuinely self-employed who work independently and the bogus self-employed. Each authority and individual body applies its own legal and regulatory framework provisions, which may vary depending on their remit or policy area (tax law, social security, business law, employment market, insurance)(5).

No clear definition of economically dependent self-employed activity exists. Only certain European countries have officially recognised an intermediate category falling between self-employed and employees, the main purpose of this being to provide more effective protection for those included in it without, however, assimilating them with employees.

4. Social security for self-employed workers: an overview of the problem

The development of sole trading raises a certain number of problems in regard to labour rights and welfare protection for self-employed workers. Traditional social security systems in Europe were designed to protect wage earners and geared in part to this, which is still largely the case. Adjusting them to suit self-employed workers is difficult therefore.

The policy of EU Member States towards self-employed workers can be summed up as follows: self-employed workers are discriminated against and/or are less well protected in some countries, owing to higher social security contributions, or conversely, to lower social security contributions which give a lower level of social security insurance. Denmark is probably one of the best exceptions to this, with the self-employed having the same rights as wage earners(6).

Policy on social security for the self-employed is complicated by the fact that, as already mentioned, the self-employed form a very mixed group. As a consequence, social security measures applied to one part of the group may be irrational and unacceptable to another part. The term self-employed workers applies equally to people well able to take care of themselves or professionals in certain sectors with a high income, as it does to people who are reliant on one customer for their work or for whom they provide services or people whose work is no different from that of a wage earner. In the former case, the social security measures applied to wage earners may be excessive and unacceptable, while in the latter the danger is that wage earners would not be protected sufficiently against social risks.

5. Abuse of self-employment status

The ILO has given prior warning that some forms of self-employment may be subject to abuse whereby workersʼ rights and rights under the EU normally guaranteed by labour relations are ignored. This abuse takes various forms, ranging from social security contributions fraud, tax dodging and circumventing labour laws, to undeclared work. This seriously distorts competition and harms genuine self-employed workers, microenterprises and SMEs.

Self-employed workers have the right to decide freely to work as self-employed, but they must be told that they may lose some welfare protection in so doing. There is a problem which should be noted: the increasingly frequent appearance of ‘falseʼ self-employed workers, who are often forced by their employers to work under wretched conditions. The European Parliamentʼs resolution of 6 July 2010, which stresses that all workers should be guaranteed basic entitlements, irrespective of their status, needs therefore to be reiterated.

6. Worse social security entitlements for self-employed workers

In many countries self-employed workers are only partially covered by the pension system. Although this can make sense in the case of professionals whose incomes are high and who are capable of looking after themselves, the same cannot be said of economically dependent self-employed workers or false self-employed workers. In their case, partial coverage puts them at risk of poverty in old age because their low pension contributions will equate to a small retirement pension. This is also true of invalidity pensions.

Self-employed workers are also less protected when it comes to maternity and paternity. They still do not have adequate rights to maternity and paternity leave and other related rights (in Cyprus, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Poland for example)(7). In this case, special efforts should be made to guarantee the social protection of self-employed workers. Recent studies and analyses(8) have underscored the need to ensure that the maternity/paternity entitlements of self-employed workers are brought into line with those enjoyed by employees.

Protection for self-employed workers is even worse when it comes to unemployment. Unemployment benefits are mainly for employees. Only certain countries with well-developed social security systems offer coverage to self-employed workers(9).

7. Need for collective action

Many self-employed workers know that they are more vulnerable than employees. They know that they are not protected under collective agreements and that the market is able to resolve their problems to only a limited extent. This awareness could provide the foundation for a collective commitment to mandatory solidarity. Trade unions should also rise to the challenge of refocusing their actions and regrouping around the interests of all workers, whether their work be permanent or flexible, typical or atypical, and whether the workers be employed, quasi-employed or self-employed(10).

8. Problems resulting from social security coordination

Definitions vary not only from one EU country to another, but also within EU law. This lack of clarity creates major problems in cross-border situations. The absence of a link between the national and European legal frameworks in relation to the distinction between occupying a post and providing services makes the concept of self-employment a problematic subject, particularly in relation to cross-border work(11).

(1)

Communication from the Commission of 20 August 2012 on Social Protection in European Union Development Cooperation (COM (2012)446).

(2)

European Union Labour Force Survey, 2012.

(3)

Texts adopted, P7_TA(2010)0263.

(4)

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 29 April 2010 on ‘New trends in self-employed work: the specific case of economically dependent self-employed work’ (SOC/344) ,

(5)

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘Abuse of the status of self-employed’ (INT/628).

(6)

European Employment Observatory Review (2010).

(7)

Commission report entitled ‘Fighting Discrimination on the Grounds of Pregnancy, Maternity and Parenthood’, European Commission, DG Justice, November 2012, p.29.

(8)

‘Self-employed workers: industrial relations and working conditions’, Eurofound 2009, p.76.

(9)

‘World Social Security Report 2010/11: Providing coverage in times of crisis and beyond’, International Labour Organisation, Geneva: ILO, 2010, p. 59.

(10)

Westerveld M., ‘The “New” Self-Employed: An Issue for Social Policy?’, European Journal of Social Security, Volume 14 (2012), No 3, p. 170-171.

(11)

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘Abuse of the status of self-employed’, (INT/628).


OPINION OF THE COMMITTEE ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS AND GENDER EQUALITY (26.11.2013)

for the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs

on social protection for all, including self-employed workers

(2013/2111(INI))

Rapporteur: Marije Cornelissen

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality calls on the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions in its motion for a resolution:

A. whereas women who choose to become entrepreneurs cite, more often than men, a better work-life balance and/or economic necessity as the main motivation for their decision;

B.  whereas self-employment is, in many cases, not the preferred option of the person concerned but rather a necessity because of a lack of other job opportunities or sufficiently flexible working arrangements for combining work and care; whereas these circumstances have worsened in times of crisis, leading to an increase in the number of people who are self-employed on grounds of necessity, particularly women;

C. whereas self-employed women are in the minority among self-employed workers, but are more likely to fall into poverty;

D. whereas a lack of access to adequate pension rights, sick pay, paid leave and other forms of social security for the self-employed aggravates the gender pay gap for self-employed women, especially after retirement;

E.  whereas an increasing number of self-employed persons with too little work or work that is very badly paid, in particular women, are falling below the poverty line but are not officially registered as unemployed;

F.  whereas there is a lack of reliable, accurate and comparable information and data on the situation, working conditions and social security arrangements for combining work and care as regards the self-employed;  

1.  Highlights the need for better social security and health care systems and the need to promote social insurance for the self-employed; calls on the Member States to link social security and social protection rights to the individual rather than to work contracts, thereby guaranteeing a decent level of social protection for all, including the self-employed and any spouses or partners who participate in the activities of self-employed and other workers, irrespective of their contract type or employment status;

2.  Emphasises the fact that the statistics available on female employment indicate that women are more likely to be in precarious jobs and are at greater risk of dismissal, and that this situation reduces the extent to which they are protected by social security systems;

3.  Calls on the Commission and Member States to ensure that all workers and self-employed persons have access to lifelong learning by redistributing existing EU and national funding from workers with permanent contracts only to all workers, irrespective of their contract type, and the self-employed;

4.  Stresses the fact that the gap between female and male employment in Europe is still significant, whereas promoting self-employment for women can play an important role in poverty reduction;

5.  Underlines the need for improvement of, and transparency in, the social security systems in certain Member States with a view to achieving fairer standards of contribution for self-employed workers, in particular as regards pregnancy and maternity leave;

6.  Warns that the budget cuts and privatisations being carried out by many Member States in their public health systems are destroying their social welfare systems and undermining the right to social protection of workers and citizens in general; deplores in particular the cutbacks in sexual and reproductive health care, which primarily affect women, with smear tests, mammographies and gynaecological checks no longer being offered annually but at longer intervals;

7.  Draws attention to the fact that in some Member States ageing populations, low birth rates and changing labour markets may increase the urgency of reforming social security systems, including pensions, so as to guarantee their sustainability; emphasises the fact that women take more frequent career breaks and part-time jobs than men for the purpose of caring for children and other dependants, which may have a negative impact on their pensions and put them at greater risk of poverty; calls on the Member States, therefore, to view these career-break periods as insured periods when establishing and calculating pension entitlements; stresses the fact that reforms should involve the social partners in accordance with national law and practice, as well as relevant stakeholders, and be properly communicated to citizens;

8.  Stresses the fact that Directive 2010/41/EU on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity in a self-employed capacity requires the Member States to tackle all obstacles that prevent women and their spouses or partners recognised under national law from benefiting from the social protection to which they are entitled under that law;

9.  Points out that longer and better-paid parental leave, shared between men and women and considered as full-time work for the purposes of social security benefits, could be a major incentive for an increase in the birth rate;

10. Calls on European social partners, the Commission and the Member States to study the issue of dependent self-employment and to find practical solutions, particularly in those sectors where transborder activities play an important role and among vulnerable groups such as domestic and low-paid workers;

11. Calls on the Member States to promote and facilitate self-organisation among self-employed persons, especially women, in order to increase their ability to defend their collective interests;

12. Calls on the Member States to ensure the availability of affordable childcare and education facilities and to ensure access for self-employed workers to public services and relevant tax and social advantages in the area of childcare;

13. Calls on the Commission to propose an ambitious revision of Directive 2010/41/EU on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity in a self-employed capacity in order to guarantee higher standards for minimum maternity, paternity, adoption, care and filial leave rights, and to make the Member States responsible for ensuring that self-employed workers are entitled to these leave rights under their social security systems; calls on the Council to adopt a common position on the proposed revision, approved by Parliament, of Council Directive 92/85/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding; recalls that the proposal adopted by Parliament contains important measures in this area that promote work-life balance for men and women;

14. Calls on the Member States to facilitate the possibility for all workers, including self-employed workers and any spouses or partners who participate in their activities, to combine work and care responsibilities, including by speeding up the application of Articles 7 and 8 of Directive 2010/41/EU of 7 July 2010, and by providing workers at their request with flexibility regarding working hours, teleworking and part-time work for the purpose of caring for minors and dependants, and to achieve this without any loss of workers’ social benefits so to avoid their having no other way of securing flexibility than resorting to dependent or involuntary self-employment;

15. Calls on the Member States to pass legislation to combat the use of ‘false’ self-employed workers, a form of precarious employment affecting women in particular, and encourages the social partners to exchange best practice as regards the services provided to self-employed workers, tackling ‘false’ self-employment and organising genuine self-employed workers;

16. Calls on the Member States to develop social policies and social services providing childcare and care for the elderly and other dependent people in order to enable men and women to continue working if they so choose;

17. Highlights the need to provide opportunities for further training and retraining for employees, the self-employed and those moving from employment towards self-employment; calls on the Member States, therefore, to remove obstacles to further training and retraining, and to promote lifelong learning for all;

18. Calls on the Member States to guarantee access to fertility and assisted reproduction treatments for single women and lesbians;

19. Calls on the Commission and Member States to collect gender-sensitive, reliable, accurate, comparable data and to monitor closely the situation and social protection of the self-employed, as well as labour market trends impacting on self-employment, among other forms of employment, by including questions on self-employment in the European Labour Force Survey.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

26.11.2013

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

19

8

2

Members present for the final vote

Regina Bastos, Andrea Češková, Edite Estrela, Iratxe García Pérez, Zita Gurmai, Mikael Gustafsson, Mary Honeyball, Sophia in ‘t Veld, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, Constance Le Grip, Astrid Lulling, Barbara Matera, Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, Angelika Niebler, Antonyia Parvanova, Marc Tarabella, Britta Thomsen, Marina Yannakoudakis, Anna Záborská, Inês Cristina Zuber

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Iñaki Irazabalbeitia Fernández, Kent Johansson, Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, Doris Pack, Zuzana Roithová

Substitute(s) under Rule 187(2) present for the final vote

Birgit Collin-Langen, Jill Evans, María Irigoyen Pérez


RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

5.12.2013

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

29

4

1

Members present for the final vote

Regina Bastos, Edit Bauer, Heinz K. Becker, Phil Bennion, Pervenche Berès, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Alejandro Cercas, Ole Christensen, Minodora Cliveti, Emer Costello, Frédéric Daerden, Sari Essayah, Richard Falbr, Thomas Händel, Marian Harkin, Stephen Hughes, Ádám Kósa, Jean Lambert, Patrick Le Hyaric, Olle Ludvigsson, Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, Csaba Őry, Siiri Oviir, Licia Ronzulli, Elisabeth Schroedter, Joanna Katarzyna Skrzydlewska, Gabriele Stauner, Jutta Steinruck, Traian Ungureanu, Inês Cristina Zuber

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Georges Bach, Anthea McIntyre, Evelyn Regner, Csaba Sógor

Last updated: 19 December 2013Legal notice