EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

New forms of employment

As a result of the need for increased flexibility in an increasingly competitive economic environment, employment relationships are starting to become more diversified. Alongside the usual and traditional open-ended and full-time employment relationship between an employer and an employee, a number of new forms of work are emerging. The need for flexibility is driven by employers, but also by workers, who need to balance work with private life and other commitments. These new forms of work are characterised by factors such as different working patterns, temporary forms of contractual relationships, alternative places of work and irregular provision of work.

Debates among policymakers in Europe focus on how to make employment more flexible, but at the same time ensure that workers enjoy social protection and a good standard of working conditions. Employer representatives stress the need for flexibility, while employee representatives focus on ensuring high levels of social protection, employment rights and working conditions. One focus of debate has in the past been the concept of flexicurity, and in particular the Danish ‘golden triangle’ model of emphasing employment security rather than job security, based on flexible recruitment and dismissal regulation, high income protection for those who lose their jobs, and an active labour market policy. However, the focus has now shifted away from flexicurity and put the spotlight on a range of new forms of work.

Research published by Eurofound in 2015 on New forms of employment examines the types of employment that have begun to feature more strongly in the European labour market since about 2000. It examines new forms of work such as:

  • employee sharing, where an individual worker is jointly hired by a group of employers to meet the HR needs of various companies, resulting in permanent full-time employment for the worker;
  • job sharing, where an employer hires two or more workers to jointly fill a specific job, combining two or more part-time jobs into a full-time position;
  • interim management, in which highly skilled experts are hired temporarily for a specific project or to solve a specific problem, thereby integrating external management capacities in the work organisation;
  • casual work, where an employer is not obliged to provide work regularly to the employee, but has the flexibility of calling them in on demand;
  • ICT-based mobile work, where workers can perform their job from any place at any time, supported by modern technologies;
  • voucher-based work, where the employment relationship is based on payment for services with a voucher purchased from an authorised organisation that covers both pay and social security contributions;
  • portfolio work, where a self-employed individual works for a large number of clients, carrying out small-scale jobs for each of them;
  • crowd employment, where an online platform matches employers and workers, often with larger tasks being split up and divided among a ‘virtual cloud’ of workers;
  • collaborative employment, where freelancers, the self-employed or micro enterprises cooperate in some way to overcome limitations of size and professional isolation.

Eurofound has published case studies of these types of working as part of its 2015 research.

See also: Adaptability; Casual worker; Fixed-term work; Flexicurity; Fragmentation of the labour force; Part-time work; Quality of work; Work-life balance.

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