As forms of employment are not time-resistant, we are committed to find creative and smart ways that offer protection in a flexible job market and in a globalizing world. Indeed, while the standard of work is evolving, ensuring decent work conditions and adequate protection are rock-solid timeless values that can take many forms.
Speech minister Koolmees bij G20 Mendoza: New forms of work
Minister Koolmees is deze dagen te gast bij een G20 bijeenkomst in Mendoza (Argentinië) waar gesproken wordt over de toekomst van de arbeidsmarkt. Vandaag ging de minister in een speech voor zijn collega-ministers, in op nieuwe vormen van werk. Wat is eigenlijk de standaard? Welke ontwikkelingen zien we en hoe gaan we daarmee om? En hoe kunnen we ook in de toekomst werknemers bescherming en zekerheid bieden?
Before I start, I would like to thank our host, Argentina, for inviting us today. It is a pleasure to speak about a topic that is very relevant in the Netherlands, as well as in many other countries around the world.
The future of work raises important questions about different forms of work and the standards in work. What exactly is a standard? Who determines it? And can it change?
There is one standard that doesn’t appear to have shifted a millimetre over the past centuries. Not the standard of work, but that of the metre. In 1791 it was defined by the French Academy of Sciences and we still use it today. It’s a standard that is sustained worldwide. And it is a standard we all benefit from.
The standard of work is less straightforward. Our labour market is dynamic and labour relations have changed over the past decades. In the Netherlands, the number of people who are self-employed, or who are working on a temporary contract, has grown considerably. In the past, most workers had a permanent contract, but these days, a growing number of people have flexible contracts, with less protection. Our labour market and our economy can profit from this flexibility, yet only if people voluntarily choose to work under flexible conditions. And indeed, some forms of employment that we used to consider as non-standard, are now becoming more standard.
The flexibility of the job market is a fact that we need to deal with. Hence a more important question than ‘what exactly is the standard’, is the question of how we can continue to offer people adequate protection in a changing world. Take the employment contract itself. This includes rights and obligations that aim to create a level playing field and protect workers against power abuse. However, these rules have been drawn up at a time of large-scale mass production.
This autumn, a special committee will be installed in the Netherlands that will research to what extent our labour market has changed, whether laws are still up to date and how we can offer the protection we want to give workers.
In the past, self-employed workers were mainly entrepreneurs, but now, they sometimes have a poor bargaining position. Take for example the online platform economy. Its scale is relatively small: in the Netherlands 0.4 percent of the labour force is active as a so-called platform worker. Online platform work is by no means standard yet, but as it is on the rise, we need to plan and think ahead, so we can ensure that we can provide the protection we would like to give.
On the one hand, platform workers are paid relatively poorly and their work offers little certainty. In addition, the rise of the platform economy particularly affects the lower end of the labour market. Yet, on the other hand, it appears that workers hardly perceive the lack of bargaining power and protection as problematic. Only those who fully depend on platform work find their situation troublesome.
Labour relations in this particular field are also less straightforward. The business model of platform work involves working with contractors. The question arises whether these contractors should actually be seen as real independent contractors, or as employees. Or phrased differently: who is the boss? While the standard of labour relations seems to be changing, it is important to define these relations as clearly as possible.
I would like to address another topic that has become more urgent in this changing, globalizing world: child labour and forced labour. Through global supply chains, these practices have grown more complex, while at the same time they have become issues we all share responsibility for.
The Netherlands is pleased that the Labour and Employment Ministers of the G20 strongly promote decent work in global supply chains.
The Netherlands believes that all stakeholders, including businesses, have a responsibility to promote decent work. In Hamburg the G20 leaders have shown their ambitions and we hope that the G20 will continue on this path.
Again, proper insight and clear definitions are key factors. Hence we welcome that the current annex recognizes a cross-border approach and sees due diligence and public procurement as means to promote compliance. We would be happy if the G20 further encourages this.
It would be easy if all our standards were as straightforward as the metre.
As forms of employment are not time-resistant, we are committed to find creative and smart ways that offer protection in a flexible job market and in a globalizing world.
Indeed, while the standard of work is evolving, ensuring decent work conditions and adequate protection are rock-solid timeless values that can take many forms.