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Let’s write a new social contract

Let’s write a new social contract

It’s time to act.

Behind the differences of national systems, we are on a shared, universal quest: to provide adequate social safety nets to everyone in need – regardless of employment status or any other difference.

In a changing world of work, this demands a fresh way of looking at what work means, in all its forms – from full-time, open-ended contracts or part-time employment to flexible, platform work or even unpaid work that contributes to social value creation.

This increasingly complex environment requires a new social contract for work between governments, businesses, social partners and workers. To get there, we need dialogue, innovation and international cooperation.

We expect all developed countries to support this quest; the real challenge will be in finding the answer. “This is a huge construction site,” says the Adecco Group’s Bettina Schaller. “No country has found the ideal solution, and there are big disparities even between companies.”

The rise of the platform economy has acted as a catalyst in this debate and highlighted that governments are struggling to ensure that policy keeps up with today’s fast-evolving employment marketplace. The topic of a new social contract is clearly now on the agenda, but policymakers have not yet found a comprehensive solution. “The answers will not come from only one country, but from different initiatives coming from some specific sectors and/or companies” says the World Employment Confederation’s Denis Pennel.

Acknowledging the multiple challenges in writing a new social contract for work, the Adecco Group is offering a platform for discussion and some first elements to consider. We believe:

  • Governments, employers and social partners should design new models and update existing regulation to ensure that all work opportunities, including freelancing, are secure and sustainable for workers and businesses alike.
  • When there is a de facto employment relationship between a platform and a worker, it should be defined and treated as such, and all relevant rights and obligations should apply to both parties.
  • We are committed to providing freelancers and everyone who is part of the workforce with fair remuneration and the benefits they need.
  • One-size-fit-all solutions are not the answer.
  • Some situations could arise where vulnerable workers, including freelancers, should be offered additional protection by government.
  • The build-up of social protection should be individual, portable and transferable.

A bespoke website will invite contributions to the debate about how to update social protection systems and make them sustainable.

The website will feature case studies and expert opinions to explore how the challenge could be addressed – and how some are already addressing it. With more multinational employers starting to play a role in this area, we will also showcase the innovative solutions provided by private sector stakeholders.

Public or private, these models might not always translate to other national systems. However, they may inspire others wrestling with similar challenges. We hope to contribute to the discussions between all stakeholders on how to create a new social contract for work that is fit for purpose today and into the future.

“You can look at the debate around social protection and platform workers negatively or positively,” says Professor Schoukens of the University of Leuven. “Negatively, you can see it as a kind of danger or challenge to existing protections. Positively, I see it as an invitation to rethink our systems in order to make sure that they’re up to meeting future needs.”

In other words, it’s time to act to establish a new social contract for the 21 st century.