2019 RDRC Meeting: The Changing Nature of Work and Public Pension Coverage: Evidence from the U.S. and Europe

Published: 2019


We examine nonstandard work and its impact on pension coverage via a case study of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany.  We define nonstandard work broadly to include alternative work, contingent work, and self-employment.  We discuss how nonstandard work may affect public pension coverage, as both the pension rules and the level of actual and reported earnings of workers engaged in nonstandard work can differ from those of workers engaged in standard work.  Current nonstandard workers receive essentially symmetric treatment from the pension systems in both the U.S. and U.K., but this is not the case in Germany and is a recent development in the U.K.  We find that the share of workers engaged in nonstandard work has changed only modestly over time in these three countries, despite the popular perception that a more significant transformation in the nature of work may be underway.  We also find that workers who spent much of their career in self-employment (one type of nonstandard work) have higher levels of financial distress in retirement and rely more on financial assets outside the public pension system.

Key Findings