small child reaching for a strawberry on a kitchen counter

Photo: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Agile protection: from fragile to agile


Our Agile protection: from fragile to agile project investigates threats to the sustainability of worker protection systems, and proposes frameworks for social protection in today’s rapidly changing global and national labour markets. We are exploring the economic and social drivers behind the need for such frameworks, through employers' perspectives on providing flexible protection, and individuals' behavioural tendencies that influence their insurance purchasing decisions.


People are living and working longer. Changing employment types, the loss and creation of whole industries, and growth in the sharing economy all bring greater uncertainty to the global labour market. At the same time, workers are more likely to pause their careers for caregiving responsibilities, or further education and training.

Workers are more in need of social protection than ever before, and the public sector is unable to provide adequate, sustainable social security. This is a burden that individuals cannot shoulder alone, nor can it be delegated to a single company – someone at the start of their career today is likely to change employers several times over the course of their working life. Historically, insurers have concentrated on selling single products for specific phases in customers' lifecycles, which works well for those whose career path follows a conventional pattern. However, this fragmented approach needs reconsidering in the context of the new landscape of work and retirement.

The responsibility for workers' lifelong financial well-being must be shared between individuals and institutions that can provide them with social security: governments, employers, insurance companies, and other financial service providers.

Our work builds on the Zurich-Oxford Income Protection Gap project which examined the behavioural and institutional drivers of shortfalls in earned household income due to disability, illness, or the premature death of a breadwinner.

Project phases