WSI research project

Employment hybridization in Europe. Structure, dynamics, representation and social security

PD Dr. Karin Schulze Buschoff

In the current debate on the future of work, the consequences of digitisation often focus on the fear of job losses due to automation. Less account is taken of the structural changes triggered by digitisation, such as changes in the organisation of a company and the transformation of forms of employment and structures (Eichhorst und Linckh 2017). Less attention is, furthermore, being paid to the extent to which the structural changes in the labour market, triggered by digitisation, can be adequately absorbed socially. Since very different forms of social protection and labour law treatment result from different forms of employment, considering the change in employment relationships and recognising the plurality of employment becomes a key social issue (Jürgens, Hoffmann und Schildmann 2017: 27; Grimshaw et al 2016).

The change in working conditions in Europe should also be seen in the context of the financial crisis and austerity policies, which have exacerbated social and economic disparities within and between Member States (European Commission 2013; OECD 2011; Karamessini and Rubery 2015; Vaughan-Whitehead 2015; Grimshaw et al 2016). Comparative studies show that, despite all the differences, there is an EU-wide trend towards split welfare regimes, which increasingly focus social protection on core employees (insiders), thereby having to live with the growing number of precarious or permanently unemployed people (outsiders) (Schmid 2018; Jürgens, Hoffmann und Schildmann 2017). It is a challenge for the national and transnational labour market and social policies to counteract the deepening of social differences and increasing social exclusion in EU countries.

European labour markets have become more flexible over the past two to three decades - but to varying degrees in different countries. The relatively recent labour market developments include the so-called “renaissance of self-employment”, an increase in the gig economy and the emergence of “clickworking”. These developments are accompanied by “multiple”, “plural” or “hybrid” forms of employment, which refer either to the working of several dependent jobs at the same time or to a combination of dependent employment and self-employment at the same time. In many countries there is a clear trend towards a hybridisation of employment such as this, but little is known about the determinants and development dynamics (Suprinovič, Schneck und Kay 2016:19). The focus of the project is the analysis of the structure and development of hybrid employment in a country comparison, the necessary labour, social and collective support of this development as well as the question of the organisation and interest representation of the employed persons concerned. The project consists of three coherent priorities:

1. In the subproject “Employment Hybridisation - Structure and Dynamics”, the development and structure of hybrid forms of employment and their importance over time will be analysed using longitudinal and panel data (e.g. SOEP, BHPS, Labour Supply Panel). The subproject should provide a country comparison (the Netherlands, the UK, Germany and for certain questions also including Poland, Italy Denmark and Austria) using broad empirical data to provide a multifaceted picture of the structure and dynamics of hybrid employment and, thereby, show the erosion of standard employment resulting from it.

2. Another focal point of work is the question of how hybrid employment and the self-employed are organized and represented in comparison with other countries. First, a literature report will document the existing research that has been carried out throughout Europe on the representation of interests of atypical workers (especially hybrid and self-employed workers working in the platform economy). Against this background, a guideline for expert interviews on the subject will be developed. The interviews will be conducted with legal experts and representatives of interest groups in the countries participating in the research network.

3. Another part of the project consists of the continuation of a network and joint research by researchers from seven EU member states on questions of labour, social and collective protection in atypical and hybrid employment. Topics, which need to be studied in the context of this cooperation, include a) precariousness risks of atypical and hybrid employees in a country comparison (gaps in cover and needs for adjustment), b) strategies for expanding term “employee” and the growing importance of an “intermediate category” between dependent and self-employed work in a country comparison and c) remuneration and minimum remuneration – fee structure and collective agreements for self-employed and hybrid employees in a country comparison.

Within the framework of the project, the development of the structure of the labour market for hybrid employees and the self-employed, based on the comparison of parameters for different welfare states, will be described in a comparative European perspective. This needs to include global and European integration processes. The conclusions of which – especially for the co-determination and representation of interests in self-employed work, an area, which supposedly “does not require co-determination” – will be addressed.

Time frame: 36 months. Subproject “Employment Hybridization - Structure and Dynamics” 18 months. Beginning 01.08.2018

Mikkel Mailand and Tine P. Larsen, Hybrid work - Social protection of atypical employment in Denmark. WSI Study 12, 03/2018 (pdf)

Jacqueline O' Reilly and Christine Lewis, Social protection of mainstream and marginal employment in the UK. WSI Study 15, 09/2018 (pdf)

Upcoming publications (work in progress):

Schulze Buschoff, Karin: Who faces the risks? Social security of marginal part-time in the EU country comparison. In: Larsen, Trine and Ilsoe, Anna (ed.): Journal of Social Policy and Administration, Special Issue (will be published in 2018)

Wieteke Conen and Karin Schulze Buschoff: Precariousness among solo self-employed workers: a German-Dutch comparison. In: Journal Poverty and Social Justice (will be published in 2018)

Karin Schulze Buschoff: Social security of self-employment in European Comparison. In: Conen, Wieteke and Joop Schippers (ed.): Self-employment as precarious work. Edward Elgar (will be published in 2018)

Further articles in cooperation with members of the project group to be published in national and international refereed magazines

Eichhorst, Werner und Linckh, Carolin (2017): Solo-Selbstständigkeit in der Plattformökonomie. WISO-Direkt 28/2017.

European Commission (2013): Employment and Social Developments in Europe, European Commission.

Grimshaw, Damian; Johnson, Mat; Rubery, Jill and Keizer, Arjan (2016): Reducing Precarious Work. Protective Gaps and the role of social dialogue in Europe. A European Commission project (DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities VP/2014/004). Date of publication: 2016.

Jürgens, Kerstin; Hoffmann, Reiner und Schildmann, Christina (2017): Arbeit transformieren. Denkanstöße der Kommission „Arbeit der Zukunft“. Forschung aus der Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, Band 189, Transcript Verlag

Karamessini, Maria and Rubery, Jill (eds.) (2015): Women and Austerity, Routledge.

OECD (2011): Divided we stand – why Inequality keeps rising. OECD,

Schmid, Günther (2018) Europa in Arbeit. Zu einer neuen Vollbeschäftigung durch inklusives Wachstum. Im Erscheinen.

Suprinovič, Olga; Schneck, Stefan und Kay, Rosemarie (2016): Einmal Unternehmer, immer Unternehmer? Selbstständigkeit im Erwerbsverlauf, in IfM Bonn: IfM Materialien Nr. 248, Bonn.




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