Westerveld and Olivier, Social Security Outside the Realm of the Employment Contract

Mies Westerveld and Marius Olivier (eds), Social Security Outside the Realm of the Employment Contract: Informal Work and Employee-like Workers, Edward Elgar, 2019, x + 230 pp, 1 78811 339 7, hbk, £95

The eBook version is priced from £22 from Google Playebooks.com and other eBook vendors, while in print the book can be ordered from the Edward Elgar Publishing website

The preface of this thoroughly researched book sets out from the recognition that social insurance and other kinds of social security based on either traditional employment or residence is struggling to provide secure incomes because both employment and residence have become fluid; and it explores global and regional attempts to set standards for social security.

The first two chapters study social security protection for informal economy workers in developing countries, and workers in less formal employment markets in more developed countries, and ask why there might be problematic relationships between employment and social security provision. Chapter 2 discusses a Citizen’s Basic Income as a way of providing the kind of financial security that employment-based social security now cannot. The third chapter studies how gender and race influence social security provision; and the fourth asks how gender and race equality law in the EU influences the relationship between the self-employed and the welfare state.

Chapter 5 asks how labour relations and labour law function in the ‘shared economy’: that is, an economy in which the internet connects existing factors of production; and chapter 6 finds social protection to be problematic for vulnerable workers in South Africa. The following chapters study a variety of different regions: Latin America (where conditional cash transfer developments have benefited informal workers); Hungary; and East Africa: and country case studies: Sweden, the Netherlands, and Canada (in which the recent ‘Basic Income’ experiment is correctly described as a Negative Income Tax income supplement).

In the final chapter, Westerveld concludes that ‘in countries with a large informal economy … social risks have been effectively shifted onto such workers and their families’ (p. 259); that in some places social security arrangements have adapted to provide greater financial security (for instance, in Latin America), whereas in the global north such adaptation has been more patchy; that women and ethnic minorities are disproportionately disadvantaged by employment market changes; and that solutions in one country or region might not be useful in others, although the global south and global north might have quite a lot that they could learn from each other.

This final point is surely crucial, and could easily be generalised. Other countries might have something to learn from the highly efficient unconditional provision represented by the UK’s Child Benefit and National Health Service, and the UK might learn from Namibia (its unconditional pensions are mentioned, and also from its unmentioned Citizen’s Basic Income pilot project) and from India (which has also experienced a Citizen’s Basic Income pilot project, again unmentioned).

This edited collection tackles an important subject, and its well-evidenced discussion should be regarded as an important contribution to a debate that will be increasingly important as employment markets continue to diversify.