GENEVA, (Reuters) — Governments need policies to stop societies and economies being damaged by fewer and fewer people having full-time salaried jobs, the International Labor Organization said in a flagship annual report on Tuesday.
Only a quarter of workers worldwide have stable employment while three-quarters either have no contract at all, are self-employed or on temporary or short-term contracts, the ILO's World Employment and Social Outlook report said.
The global financial crisis spurred a rise in part-time employment, particularly among women, and a downturn in jobs associated with global supply chains.
Those changes, and new forms of employment such as "mini-jobs" in Germany, "zero-hours contracts" in Britain and "on call" contracts in the Netherlands, meant that governments needed to consider how to ensure income security for those who did not have a full-time salaried job, ILO director-general Guy Ryder said.
"Those who do have a standard employment situation do benefit as a consequence — in terms of wages, employment, pension coverage and social protection. It is a better place to be," Ryder said.
Governments should still respond to demand for full-time jobs, but it was also necessary to ask fundamental questions about changing labour patterns, he said.
"Maybe the future, and the issues of social justice for which the ILO stands, cannot be realized through... that 9 to 5 permanent contract that our fathers and grandfathers felt was almost an inheritance," Ryder told a news conference in Geneva.
"I liken this to what's happened in the field of social security. There was a time when we thought that everybody lived in a two-parent nuclear family with a male breadwinner, and that's how we designed our social security systems, to the great disadvantage of great sections of society.
"Something similar is happening in the world of work and we need to adapt accordingly.
The erosion of job quality and the rise in unemployment since the financial crisis had cost the global economy $3.7 trillion in lost demand, as well as exacerbating inequality, the report said.
Social protection needed to be "delinked from employment status," and non-standard forms of employment did not have to be second best, Ryder said.
He cited the example of part-time work in the Netherlands, which was seen as a problem in the 1980s but which is now widely regarded as an opportunity.
The challenge was "about how we intervene in this emerging world of work."