Farmers, sole traders, company directors, and those from the construction, retail, transport, and tourism sectors will be surveyed to find out what new benefits the self-employed would most like to receive from social insurance (PRSI) reforms planned in future budgets.
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has already indicated he plans major reforms of the PRSI system for self-employed people. He brought a memo to Government last month on the matter.
The department survey will ask the self-employed if they would be willing to pay more PRSI in return for access to greater benefits, or whether they would prefer to maintain the status quo.
Mr Varadkar said: “There is plenty of evidence that self-employed people are not dissatisfied with the extent of the benefits they receive in return for paying PRSI.
“I want to find out what new benefits they would most like to receive, such as long-term illness, injury, jobseekers, and dental treatment benefits or whether they would prefer to maintain the status quo.
“The survey informs self-employed people which benefits are currently available to them, whether they consider them good value, and how much extra PRSI they would consider paying for access to greater benefits.”
Mr Varadkar has been pushing for a European model of PRSI which would create a clearer link between PRSI contributions and the benefits received.
Last month, he said he believed those who have been paying into the PRSI system and lose their job should receive greater social welfare payments.
He is also considering a further shake-up of the social welfare system which would involve a sliding scale of job seekers payments.
“The standard rate for job seekers is €188 a week and they modelled what it would cost if they made it €215 for the first three months and then €200 for three to six months and then it would go down to €188,” he said. “The cost of doing that is in the region of €34m to €35m.”
Fine Gael senator Ray Butler, who has raised the issue of self-employed PRSI, said the survey should provide a good insight into the self-employed circumstances when it comes to social welfare.
“I know there is no one perfect fit when it comes to social protection and the self-employed, but we are the only country in industrialised Europe that doesn’t have protection for business people,” he said. “We just simply can’t ignore this or leave the situation the way it is any longer.”
The survey, being sent out this week, will ask the self-employed which benefits — such as long-term illness, dental and optical treatments, work-related injury, or unemployment benefits — they would deem most important. The survey must b
e returned by August 31.