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 judgment 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.
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.
The research analysis includes three main dimensions:
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:
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:
The project will produce the following deliverables:
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