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8 December 2017

A combined approach needed at EU level to address the problem of contingent work

core and contingent work cover

The growth of atypical work across the European Union is the research subject of many studies, but only a few analyse the issue of the decline of the standard employment relationship from the point of view of core and contingent work. This core/contingent perspective was the guiding theme of the 2014 edition of the Pontignano International Labour Law Seminar and later became the subject of the book "Core and Contingent Work", presented at an ETUI lunch debate on 1 December.

Olaf Deinert (University of Göttingen), one of the editors of this publication, said that the analysis of different types of ‘contingency’ is necessary, as the increase in contingent work leads to complicated legal issues which vary between the different Member States. The book aims to identify and analyse those issues which constitute a real challenge to social cohesion at the European level.

After having set out the main problems related to the type of contingent arrangement in countries such as Germany (agency work), Belgium (fixed-term and agency work), France (outsourcing), Hungary (distance work), Italy (increasing number of protection contracts), Spain (new entrepreneurship), the UK (zero-hour contracts), etc., Deinert discussed the common outcomes. “EU legislation only partly addresses the problem,” he said. “Member States have no overall strategy, they only cover specific challenges in their countries but nothing more.” According to him, this area represents a very large governance field for the social partners. Specific protection should be dealt with at the European level and constitute a combined approach of different national systems, preventing the abuse of flexibility and, at the same time, guaranteeing equal treatment, social security coverage, and the recognition of specific risks and the link between core and contingent work.

In her comments, Maria Jepsen, Director of the ETUI Research Department, referred to the concept of the ‘single contract’, which covers both typical and atypical work and their respective challenges in an attempt to regulate work in a common framework. She questioned whether labour law could not deal with the issue in a comprehensive way, instead of reinforcing the separation between different ‘worlds’ of work. She also put forward the notion of causality: is it the different forms of labour market organisation in the EU Member States that create contingent work or is it rather a global pressure on countries to weaken labour law? Finally, will the European Pillar of Social Rights provide a platform to discuss this issue and propose solutions?

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