With a changing workforce and the need for greater autonomy, along with the accelerated obsolescence of skills and ever-wider social inequality, the working world is facing numerous risks that will require multiple forms of job protection in the future, writes Philippe Trainar, CEO of the SCOR Foundation and member of the Cercle des Economistes, in Les Echos.
The working world has changed fundamentally over the past decade. Digitalization, greater demand for skills, the decline in payroll employment, the development of entrepreneurship, growing regional mobility, the disruption of hierarchical lines, the rise of collective decision-making, greater career constraints, rising job accountability, the widespread use of variable compensation, growing redistribution, à la carte working hours, the development of remote work – all this has meant that the classic status of paid employee, which was routine for our elders, is no longer in vogue.
Job market exclusion
Does this mean we have entered a new golden age of work in which each person is treated according to their needs? Granted, some of these changes to the working world correspond to real aspirations. But new risks have also emerged: greater work disincentives, rising job market exclusion, increasing challenges in terms of social reproduction, the inability to plan jobs over the long term, accelerated skills obsolescence, the growing distance of decision-making centers from local work, increasingly complex production chains, the inability of project management companies to protect the people who work for them and the widening gulf of social inequality.
The working world is changing, and so are the risks. But what about job protections, are they evolving too? This is much less certain. The challenges are formidable: how do you insure workplace accidents for someone working from home? How do you provide loss-of-income protection for people working on online platforms? What coverage should be proposed or imposed on the new forms of self-employed work? It’s very tempting to seek solutions to these problems by reducing all of these working relations to subordinate employee relationships, which can be controlled. Except that the price of achieving this would be a huge step backwards in terms of the aspirations of younger generations and the opportunities offered by new technology.
This approach would create incentives for undeclared work, marginalization and emigration that would be extremely costly. The public authorities and judges must therefore rise to the challenge of adapting social legislation to acknowledge and integrate the new aspirations of the working world. Care must also be taken to preserve the dynamic momentum of the job market, which has been the catalyst for these new aspirations. The solution probably lies less in multiplying the number of regulations than in modifying them and opening them up to majority rules in collective bargaining, a tendency that can already be seen in recent labor law reforms. And where possible, we must also turn to insurance-based solutions, whether mandatory or optional, depending on the case at hand.
These solutions have the advantage not only of adapting to the most complex individual situations, but also of modifying all of the relative costs and prices. This can only create incentives to reduce exposure to work-related risks and discourage undeclared work and social dumping.
This article was published in the French newspaper Les Echos on March 17, 2021