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Social protection: from precarious to outmoded

Time is of the essence for social protection systems to reform as life expectancy and changing work patterns increase.


Time is of the essence for social protection systems to reform as life expectancy and changing work patterns increase.

Reforming social protection systems need to involve educating publics about how social protection programs are funded. Firms can play a critical role in encouraging employees to save early in their careers for retirement. Some US employers, for example, are automatically enrolling their workers in 401(K) supplemental retirement plans and deducting contributions from employees’ pay. Employees can always reverse that decision, but tend not to.

Businesses are at the forefront of rapid changes in the nature of work. As a result, they can help develop new types of benefits, particularly for independent workers who often lack the knowledge of financial tools that would help them save for retirement. Given many firms’ increasingly dependence on independent workers, it’s in the interest of companies to help. "An interpretation of companies' duty of care in line with the times can't discriminate between workers who are all crucial to the success of newer ways of doing business” says Paolo Marini, Director Global Customer & Distribution Management. “Regardless of their specific employment contract, or lack thereof, inadequate protection will backfire on any short sighted organisation, through a combination of damaged reputation and inability to properly staff its operations."

Re-training people whose jobs have been eliminated will be critical. “People who have an extended work life will have to actually also be trained and retrained at different periods in their working life so as to be relevant to employers,” warns Professor Gordon L. Clark, the director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford. While many experts believe our whole notion of education, focusing on the first twenty or so years of life, is out-of-date and lifelong learning will increasingly become the norm.

Governments may have the primary role in restructuring education to fit with changing nature of work, but firms can improve their capacities by retraining their employees to keep pace with technological change.

There’s no better way to protect our democracies than through more solidly grounded social protection programs.


Social protection: From precarious to outmoded (pdf)

Embracing the income protection gaps challenge: options and solutions (pdf)