ALMOST THREE IN every four people who are self-employed want the option of paying higher social contributions – in return for better benefits.
A Department of Social Protection survey found that a large majority of self-employed workers favoured access to benefits like cover for long-term or short-term illnesses, or unemployment.
Currently, four-fifths of self-employed people believe that the range of social benefits available to them was “poor” and “not value for money”.
There are an estimated 450,000 self-employed workers in the state, a group that ranges from small-business owners to farmers and freelancers.
Minister Leo Varadkar said he “believes passionately that self-employed people deserve to be supported by government and treated equally in terms of tax and social insurance”.
The results of the survey would “guide new policy developments in the short-term, including Budget 2018, and the longer term”, he added.
The survey, which received 3,200 responses from self-employed people across the country, was carried out in August 2016.
There were low levels of coverage from private insurance reported, with only 28% of respondents covered financially for long-term illness and only 2% for unemployment.
In a statement, Varadkar said the survey had already helped the government formulate measures for the self-employed, including the extension of free dental and optical check-ups to the contingent.
He also said the self-employed would get access to the invalidity pension later this year – with no means test nor PRSI increases.
“For the first time, they will have access to the safety-net of state income supports if they become permanently unable to work through illness or disability,” he said.
The government has enlisted external consultants to further consider the cost of extending individual benefits to the self-employed.
Once that has been done, Varadkar said he would host a public consultation on increasing the scope of social insurance cover for the self-employed and generally on how benefits should be financed in Ireland.
Repoting by Sean Murray and Peter Bodkin.