Self-employed willing to pay for more State benefits

Three in four self-employed people would be willing to pay more into the State’s social insurance fund in order to get access to more benefits and services such as health care or sick cover.

A survey for Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has found the self-employed want better benefits and are agreeable to paying more than 4% in PRSI, their current rate. 

The results could now feed into Mr Varadkar’s planning for next year’s budget and potentially see a series of extra benefits offered to the self-employed —if they paid more PRSI.

Respondents to the survey rated cover for long-term illness, short-term illness and unemployment as the most important extra benefits to them.

The current headline rate of PRSI for self-employed people is 4%. An overwhelming majority of respondents — 88% — said they would be willing to pay a higher headline rate of PRSI in return for at least one additional social insurance benefit.

A smaller majority — 4% — would welcome an option to keep paying the current headline PRSI rate but also pay additional voluntary contributions in return for extra benefit coverage, the survey found.

Self-employed people last month became eligible for the optical and dental treatment benefit scheme for the first time. 

More benefits will be added later this year including the restoration of scale and polish treatment for dental work, and the option of a free spectacles or a contribution towards a more expensive pair under the optical scheme.

Mr Varadkar explained that he envisaged examining if the self-employed could then even get more benefits, particularly sick cover, under potentially any changes that could be looked at for the budget.

“We are already tackling one of the top demands for illness cover by giving self-employed people access to the Invalidity Pension later this year, without a means test. 

"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. There will be no increase in PRSI for this. 

“The results of this survey will guide new policy developments in the short term, including Budget 2018, and the longer term.”

The survey was conducted last August and saw over 3,000 responses from the self employed. External consultants are currently doing a review of the social insurance fund.

Mr Varadkar expects to hold a broader public consultation on the future of the social insurance fund, including the level of benefits, the scope of social insurance cover for all categories of workers including the self-employed as well as how benefits generally should be financed in future years.

Other parts in the survey showed that respondents reported low levels of coverage from private insurance, such as income continuance cover. Just 28% are covered for long-term illness and only 2% for unemployment.


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