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Working Paper n.º 61/2020
Trends and Challenges in the Social Protection of Self-Employed Workers in Portugal: The Slow Erosion of Dualisation (1990-2020)

11 | maio | 2020

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.Rui Branco, NOVA University of Lisbon & IPRI-NOVA

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Autonomous University of Lisbon & Observare/UAL

PALAVRAS-CHAVE: Portugal; autonomous workers; dualisation; independent workers; social protection reforms


Self-employed workers in Portugal have historically been in a position of lower social protection relative to salaried contract workers. The coverage and quality of their protection by the social security system has improved over the years, closing the gap toward employees. This working paper analyses this long path towards convergence and examines the remaining gaps, both in a national and EU context. It takes a detailed look into the period 2009 to 2019, a decade of reforms amidst deep economic crisis and recovery.We find that, despite steps towards convergence, and important recent reforms, the social protection of the self-employed relative to salaried workers still displays gaps in coverage and adequacy. The access to social protection of the self-employed still lags behind in unemployment benefits, paid sick leave and long term care. As regards inequalities in protection within the universe of the self-employed, we found in general an even pattern across self-employed categories. Particulaly, economically dependent workers are not worse off than the two other major groups, own account workers and employers. There remains, however, a crucial exception, which is the outstanding lack of unemployment protection for own account workers relative to the other self-employed, as well as salaried workers. Finally, inequalities still persist as a result of a skewed balance between the contributory effort and the social protection granted: the self-employed pay a higher proportion of their income while enjoying fewer benefits than salaried workers.

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