Although labour law and social security law have always been adapting to labour market developments, the transformation of the labour market has been particularly fast in the last few decades. This derives from the accelerated fragmentation and increased flexibility of the economy. Those responsible for labour market regulations are trying to offer new legal designs of the different ‘work relationships’ that have seen the light in the last years. At the end of the previous century, there was a lot of attention for the flexible variants of work within the legal framework of the employment contract (fixed-term work, on-call contracts, causal work, and telework). In recent years, the spectrum has spread to a variety of jobs that differ from the standard employment contract.
A second development is the rise of self-employed without personnel. The rapid growth of the number of self-employed people in many EU countries raises questions about the desired level of protection and regulatory framework for this group. The views on this include a broad spectrum: from "no intervention" (as they are small entrepreneurs); to “providing minimum protection” in case of disability and against payments below the minimum wage; to "all-embracing regulation" in the case of workers who actually act as an employees but have not been able to acquire that status. In the latter case, the notion of "bogus self-employed" is being used, following the judgement of the Court of Justice of 4 December 2014, FNV Kunsten, C-413/13.
These first two developments are primarily related to new employment relationships, the third development focuses on new business forms. These new forms seem to ignore existing regulations in the field of employment. This development is referred to as the crowd economy, using terms such as sharing economy, collaborative economy, collaborative consumption, peer-to-peer economy, gig economy, platform economics or on-demand economics. An example of the latter is the provision of transport by the company Uber. Many of these initiatives are linked to the opportunities offered by information technology and at the same time, create significant dilemmas for society, that are largely linked to labour law, including equal treatment, dismissal protection, decent wages, social dialogue and welfare systems.
Main research aim of the NEWEFIN project
The main aim of the NEWEFIN project is to provide a multilevel comparative analysis of how the challenges to labour law and social protection systems, generated by the above described trends to labour market flexibility and rising non-standard/new forms of employment, are addressed through innovative policy responses and social dialogue. The idea is to cover the issue of growing non-standard/new forms of employment and the risks that they create for traditional industrial relations structures. The non-standard/new forms of employment that will be addressed in the project NEWEFIN are: temporary employment, triangular employment relations, (dependent) self-employment, posted workers, multiple activities companies/subcontracting, and new jobs in the gig economy. The research team will examine the development of these new forms of work at Member States level – in particular, in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Belgium, Poland, Hungary and France –, in the light of: (i) the impact of this trend on the levels of labour/social protection of workers, (ii) the risks to the sustainability and affordability of the welfare system and (iii) the consequences for industrial relations and the social dialogue in general. The NEWEFIN research project will also investigate the role and initiatives of the social partners at EU and national level in the reforms of collective bargaining systems to adapt them to the above-described new forms of employment and the changing composition of the workforce.
Three research dimensions
The research analysis includes three main dimensions:
- EU dimension of the research: What is the vision of the EU on the foreseen research issues? And how are the EU institutions reacting to the trend of increasing labour market flexibility/advancement of non-standard employment? In the Commission Recommendation’s on the EU pillar of social rights several legal reforms and initiatives in the social field are planned. Some of these legal reforms are currently subjected to consultation with the European Social partners. The project NEWEFIN will address the reforms proposed by the Commission (revision of several existing Directives, i.e., the Working Time Directive, the Written Statement Directive, the parental leave Directive, inter alia).
- Cross-country comparison: The foreseen research will include a comparative analysis of labour market statistics, data on informality, on collective bargaining coverage, incidence of non-standards forms of employment, temporary work, and other labour market trends (using available sources: EUROSTAT and labour market surveys, mainly). These issues will be addressed by national country reports for nine EU Member States. The reports will examine also how the national legal systems deal with fixed-term and temporary employment contracts, in which ways, dependent and/or bogus self-employment is delimited; and how are new forms of employment, such as gig economy jobs and crowd-funding regulated.
- Role of social dialogue: Social partners’ responses to vast labour market transformations and challenges to industrial relations: The national reports and the overview report will address which are the main challenges to industrial relations and collective bargaining structures derived from the on-going transformations of the labour markets and the employment protection legislation in the EU Member States. The identification of the challenges will be followed by an analysis of the reactions of the national policy makers and of the social partners.
Main research questions of the NEWEFIN project are: How social dialogue initiatives are addressing employment flexibility trends and the rise of new forms of employment? And how are these initiatives helping to shape the new dynamics of industrial relations systems?
The main research questions of this research project are:
- How are the various types of new forms of work and non/standard employment relationships shaped in practice, as well as in formal legal terms in the selected nine Member States?
- Which distinctions could be made by the type of worker, employer, and employment in the light of the fragmented and flexible labour market?
- What are the consequences of the changing labour market/new employment forms for the protection of the workers?
- What is the position of workers in non-standard/new forms of employment with respect to social security?
- What is the role of social dialogue in this evolving regulatory framework and how can collective bargaining systems be adapted to more flexible/dynamic labour markets and to changes in industrial relations?
- What are the responses of the social partners (both at EU and national levels) to the current labour market trends and the growth of new forms of employment?
The NEWEFIN research project is interdisciplinary, involving legal analysis of the developments on labour and social security laws in the covered Member States since 2007 and qualitative research based on semi-structured interviews with social partners and policy makers at both national and EU level. The interviews will provide information on the role of social dialogue in the reform/adaptation of labour market institutions and industrial relations to the trends of labour market flexibility and growing new forms of employment. The research team of the NEWEFIN follows a mixed-method approach. The researchers use primarily:
- Analyses based on desk research on available literature, current legislation, reports of the national authorities (ministries of employment, economic and social councils, observatories, etcetera), relevant case law at EU and national level, and available texts of collective agreements;
- Analysis based on publicly available labour market data;
- Interviews with representatives from the social partners at various levels (Member States and EU).
The project will produce the following deliverables:
- Nine national reports;
- Nine country policy papers, summarising the main findings, lessons, and policy implications from the national studies;
- An overview report comparing the findings of the country studies and addressing the EU dimension of the research.
The partners of the NEWEFIN action are the AIAS-HSI at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands (coordinators); the University Carlos III - Madrid, Spain; the Centro de Estudos para a Intervenção Social, CESIS in Portugal; and the University of Gent in Belgium. The research team consists of experienced experts and researchers. All have broad experience in the necessary methodological approaches, including literature analysis, legal analysis, data analysis and qualitative research, including in-depth interviews.
This project is financed by the European Commission, Industrial Relations and Social Dialogue Programme (project reference VS/2018/0046).
Disclaimer excluding Commission responsibility
This communication related to the action NEWEFIN is made by the beneficiaries and it reflects only the author’s view. The Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
AIAS-HSI, University of Amsterdam