The Author shows how systems, like the Spanish one, based on contributive benefits, flanked by social assistance do not produce an efficacious protection for atypical workers. This despite the fact that mechanisms have been introduced in the system in an attempt at making easier for atypical workers to qualify for benefits. The Author analyses, in particular, the unemployment insurance as a paradigmatic example of the gaps existing in the protection of atypical workers due to their irregular careers. These workers can rely often only on assistance, which provides however low benefits an has particularly tough qualifying conditions. In the Author's opinion, a solution for atypical workers could rest on a mix of active labour market policies, of labour law incentives to traditional forms of employment and of new social assistance measures geared to improve the benefits offered.