The PRSI system, in line with other European social protection systems, provides for separate arrangements for employed and self employed workers.
Self-employed people pay a modified rate of PRSI contribution (Class S) which provides cover for long-term pensions such as state pension and widow's/widower's contributory pension. These contributions do not provide cover for short-term benefits such as jobseeker's and illness benefits — these are only available to persons covered by PRSI Classes A, E, H and P. This reflects the need for coverage for various contingencies, the rate of contributions that self-employed people pay, the practicalities of administering and controlling access to short-term payments and the annualised system of contributions that these same people enjoy.
The range of benefits and pensions to which different groups of workers may establish entitlement reflects the risks associated with the nature of their work. This in turn reflects the rate of contribution payable. Self-employed workers are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 3%. They are consequently eligible for a narrower range of benefits than general employees who, together with their employers, pay a total social insurance contribution of 14.05%, excluding levies, under the full-rate PRSI Class A.
In certain cases, a self-employed person who had insurable employment in the relevant year (currently 2008) and has sufficient PRSI contribution paid at the appropriate class, may qualify for a jobseeker's benefit payment provided all the conditions of the scheme are satisfied.
A self-employed person who has insufficient PRSI contributions paid may qualify for a jobseekers allowance which is a means tested payment.
There are no plans to extend cover for short-term benefits to this group of insured workers. Any such measure would have significant financial implications and would have to be considered within a budgetary context. Consideration would also have to be given to an appropriate increase in the rate of the PRSI Class S contribution.