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Employment and social protection

A consideration relevant to the categorisation of diverse forms of employment is the degree to which workers are covered by social insurance schemes or other social protection schemes and programmes.

According to the ILO's World social protection report 2020-22, social protection is defined as a “set of policies and programmes designed to reduce and prevent poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion throughout the life cycle”. Social protections are comprised of nine main areas: child and family benefits, maternity protection, unemployment support, employment injury benefits, sickness benefits, health protection (medical care), old-age benefits, invalidity/ disability benefits, and survivors’ benefits.

Typically, social protections are supported by a combination of non-contributory tax-financed benefits (e.g., means-tested social assistance or universal programmes) and contributory schemes (e.g., social or private insurance). Access to certain social protections are dependent on how work relationships are categorized in national policies and legal frameworks.

How are different types of social protection (potentially) linked to employment?

Although social protection schemes vary by country, the strongest connection to employment exists for those benefits linked to specific employment contracts directly provided or sponsored by an individual employer. Full-time, permanent employment is considered to be the default form of employment in most social protection systems. Workers in other forms of employment, including some categories of temporary, part-time and independent workers are often not, or not to the same extent, covered. This creates gaps in social protection coverage.

Social protection coverage of workers in different forms of employment

The degree and types of social protection available in different forms of employment is an important element of quality of employment. Social protection coverage can create incentives for employers and workers to favour one form of employment over another. It is therefore important for labour statisticians to understand the statistical frameworks related to social protection systems, so that they can utilise the information relevant to classifying and measuring employment forms.

Social protection indicators

Key social protection indicators include: legal and effective coverage, level of benefits, duration, and expenditure and revenue. NSOs may also consider analyzing coverage of risks and social protection functions within the working age population, which include: maternity, paternity and parental leave, healthcare, contributions to pension schemes, unemployment insurance coverage, sickness benefits/paid sick leave, employment injury benefit, survivor/death benefits and disability benefits (invalidity).



Behrendt, C., Nguyen, Q.A. and Rani U. (2019). Social protection systems and the future of work: Ensuring social security for digital platform workers. International Social Security Review, Volume 72, Issue 3, pp. 17–41. Retrieved from 

ILO. (2016). Non-standard employment around the world: Understanding challenges, shaping prospects. International Labour Office, Geneva. Retrieved from… 

ILO. (2021). World social protection report 2020–22: Social protection at the crossroads – in pursuit of a better future. International Labour Office, Geneva. Retrieved from… 

UNECE. (2015). Handbook on Measuring Quality of Employment: A Statistical Framework, prepared by the Expert Group on Measuring Quality of Employment. United Nations, New York & Geneva. Retrieved from