Platform economy and the risk of in-work poverty: A research agenda for social security lawyers

Paul Schoukens, Eleni De Becker, Alberto Barrio Fernandez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


This contribution sets a research agenda for social security lawyers, taking into account the risks arising out of platform work and the challenges it poses to in-work poverty. In 2018, almost one worker in ten in Europe was considered at risk of poverty, an increase of 1,4 % since 2006. New trends have also emerged in this domain, with more and more people at work facing a risk of in-work poverty. This is particularly true for workers in atypical employment relationships (e.g. solo self-employment and platform work). Although in-work poverty is not a new phenomenon (neither in Europe nor elsewhere), the discussion on in-work poverty resurges. The difficulties for EU Member States to reduce their poverty rates may be caused, at least partly, by the fact that the kind of employment available is increasingly threatening the capacity of individuals to ensure a decent standard of living through employment (as a result of technological and institutional changes, such as digitalisation and deregulation). It is in that perspective that the role of social security systems to protect against the risk of falling into poverty, and the challenges that certain forms of work present for the reduction of in-work poverty, gain particular importance. In this contribution, we will focus on non-standard work (and, especially, platform work) and the challenges it poses for social security schemes. Specifically, we will use the Council Recommendation on Access to Social Protection for Workers and the Self-Employed as a framework to identify a set of challenges that platform work may pose to social security systems' ability to provide effective and adequate, as well as transparent coverage (and which also jeopardize its capacity to prevent in-work poverty). First, the notions of "non-standard forms of work" and "platform work" are discussed further in detail, with a particular focus on how non-standard work deviates from a standard employment relationship. Secondly, the contribution presents a series of challenges for social security lawyers that emanate from the risk of in-work poverty and platform work. This is followed by a presentation of the Council Recommendation and how it may serve as a framework in order to address these challenges. In a final part, the authors reflect on what kind of future (legal) research in the domain of social security could be useful taking into account the challenges arising from in-work poverty and platform work.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA research agenda for the gig economy and society
EditorsValerio De Stefano, Ilda Durri, Charalampos Stylogiannis, Mathias Wouters
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781800883512
ISBN (Print)9781800883505
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


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