Towards a new research agenda on the social security and platform workers: Lessons from Hong Kong

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Abstract

The rise of platform and gig economy poses new challenges to the social security in advanced capitalist economies. As the technological innovation and corporate restructuring create the conditions favouring the growth of online platform as an intermediary for employment, they also contribute to the shift of costs and risks from firms to workers. This trend is characterised by the on-demand basis and its resultant income insecurity. Despite its relatively limited share to the total workforce, workers involving in self-employment and freelancing via digital means are significantly growing and increasingly receiving attention from academics and policy makers. While a growing body of literature addresses the gaps between the traditional design of social security and new forms of employment, for instance, the denial of access to social insurance due to threshold problems, much emphasis is focusing on the coverage of labour-related social insurance schemes in relation to the dual labour protection framework in European countries.
Other than social insurance, to what extent current social assistance and in-work benefits can respond to the income irregularity and risks of in-work poverty generated by platform work? This paper suggests that the case of Hong Kong, as a productivist-residual welfare regime, can offer key insights concerning the relationship between platform workers and means-tested benefits. In this connection, a two-folded research agenda is proposed, including the policy- and worker-focused. The policy-focused analysis is about how existing policy contexts and the institutional arrangements of a set of benefits shape the income protection of platform workers. The worker-focused perspective sheds lights on the ways platform workers experience and perceive the needs for income support and flexibility, together with their moral views on precarity and security. This research agenda also draws policy implications to rethink work and redesign social security in the age of digitisation.

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AU YEUNG, T. C. (2019). Towards a new research agenda on the social security and platform workers: Lessons from Hong Kong. The 6th International Conference of Social Policy and Governance Innovation cum The Launch Conference of the LU-SCUT Joint Research Centre for Greater Bay Area Social Policy and Governance , Hong Kong, Hong Kong.