From Informality to Inclusion: Harnessing public-private partnerships to enhance social protection coverage of online gig workers

This Short Note is part of a series based on the report Working without Borders: The Promise and Peril of Online Gig Work that aims to promote discussion among policy makers and practitioners on opportunities in online gig work. Gig workers, including self-employed individuals, often find themselves in a missing middle when it comes to social insurance coverage. They may not be poor enough to qualify for social safety net benefits, yet they are not well-off enough to access formal social insurance programs designed for the formal sector. Key challenges to extending social insurance to the informal sector include the lack of observability of informal workers (meaning that it can be difficult to track their earnings and employment status) as well as low and volatile wages, which limits their ability to pay through traditional contributory social protection schemes. Online gig platforms could be valuable allies for policymakers in efforts to identify and reach informal workers. These platforms’ databases of existing gig workers, outreach capacity, and communications channels could be used to target these workers with information about social insurance programs. In addition, connecting informal gig workers to existing government schemes through well-designed and tailored programs that include financial (e.g., matching contributions) and unconventional incentives (e.g., access to trainings, credit/loans for laptops and internet), as well as automatic and flexible payments, may incentivize participation in social security schemes. Tripartite partnerships between governments, gig platforms, and the private sector, can further fill the gap for insurance offerings tailored to informal gig workers.