October 2016

IZA Policy Paper No. 116: Flexible and Secure Labour Market Transitions: Towards Institutional Capacity Building in the Digital Economy

Industry 4.0 and robots are said to speed up productivity thereby inducing a 'quantum leap' towards the 'end of work' and calling for a complete change of social security institutions that have so far been closely linked to employment. Unconditional basic income is the cry of the day, curiously advocated in particular by, for example, employers in high-tech industries and modern financial or distributive services. In the name of freedom, liberty and flexibility they suggest a form of security without any institutional complexity. The hidden agenda in the remaining empty institutional black box, however, is the dream of freedom from any bureaucracy and painstaking negotiations between competing interests or even getting rid of any responsibility to the new risks related to the digital revolution. This paper argues that the productivity leap promise of the digital economy is far from empirical evidence and that the proper answer to the new world of work are active securities, fair risk-sharing between employees, employers and the state and 'negotiated flexicurity' calling for a higher complexity of institutions corresponding to the increasing variability of employment relationships. The paper (1) starts with stylised facts about the new world of work with a focus on non-standard forms of employment in the EU28 member states and briefly explains the main determinants of this development. It (2) then proceeds with an analytical framework of the role of institutions and (3) applies this framework to develop suggestions of new security provisions to the main forms of non-standard employment. (4) The paper concludes by reflecting on the consequences for the prospective European Pillar of Social Rights.