Future of flexible workers and the modern organisation of labour

In the Netherlands work is becoming increasingly flexible and hybrid. That opens up opportunities but also concerns as regards to the longer term. It is important for the organisation of labour to be adapted to the economy and society that we wish to have, and in that context to offer the necessary security for flexible workers. If they feel secure, people and companies are willing to take more risks.

In the WRR’s publication For the Sake of Security. The future of flexible workers and the modern organisation of labour, Monique Kremer, Robert Went and André Knottnerus describe and analyse the increasing flexibility of work, how the organisation of labour is changing in various ways, what the driving forces are behind this, what the effects are, and what answers can be provided by the government and other parties involved.

The Netherlands is the European leader when it comes to the proportion of self-employed workers and temporary contracts. The number of people with a temporary contract or working for their own account now amounts to a third of all workers. Flexibilisation is becoming increasingly widespread and more structural in nature. Work is also becoming more and more hybrid, with new combinations and blends of entrepreneurship, work, and consumption. People can earn money in the sharing economy, self-employed workers are sometimes also employees, and there are “intrapreneurs”, i.e. entrepreneurial employees within companies.

Concerns about the long-term economy and society

However, these trends do not only have positive consequences for the economy and society. Too much flexibilisation can adversely affect the earning power of the Dutch economy, if it means less training and innovation. And it can also lead to psychological uncertainty (stress, lack of recognition) and uncertainty about one’s life course. That is a problem that particularly affects young people when they want to buy a house or start a family. New and vulnerable groups are developing with a great deal of uncertainty about their income and social security situation.

Flexibilisation affects us all

A return to the labour market of the past is both impossible and undesirable. But government and businesses can adapt the amount and kind of flexibilisation to the nature of the work involved. The Dutch government can draw up legislation for that purpose and can set a good example as an employer. The social partners also have a responsibility, for example as regards modernising collective labour agreements and encouraging employer organisations by creating scope for entrepreneurship and both formal and informal learning. In addition, new forms of security can be built in to compensate for the effects of flexibilisation. Changes can be made in the existing social security system to reduce the differences between employees with a permanent position and flexible workers. At the same time, labour market developments demand a new long-term perspective as regards security.

Note to editors

This study is drawn up in the framework of the WRR’s work which it considers to be of such quality and significance that publication is desirable. Responsibility for the content and the positions adopted rests with the authors.