NPR Special Series: The Rise Of The Contract Workers: Income insecurity and lack of benefits are a concern
An NPR/Marist poll sheds light on a fast-growing workforce sector: contract workers. One out of every five jobs is held by a contract worker. While many enjoy the flexibility, the jobs are unsteady.
NPR's recent poll shows 20% of US workers are contract laborers. They work project to project and without employer-provided health insurance, retirement plan, pension, or other benefits and worker protections. Experts predict half the workforce will fall into this category within the next decade. We need to start having a conversation about what the rise of the contingent workforce will impact society.
"Over the past two decades, the U.S. labor market has undergone a quiet transformation, as companies increasingly forgo full-time employees and fill positions with independent contractors, on-call workers or temps—what economists have called “alternative work arrangements” or the “contingent workforce.”
While this article focuses on lawmaker concerns about the absense of rights and protections for contingent workers (a worthy topic on its own), what I found even more interesting was the data.
A scan of business headlines would lead most to believe the "gig economy" was transforming the world of work. In fact, it isn't. The Uber's, TaskRabbit's, and Upwork's of the world actually account for less than 1% of the contingent workforce (which includes temps, on-call workers, contract workers, independent contractors, and freelancers).*
Accurate data on the number of Americans employed under alternative work arrangements is sorely lacking, but the most rigorous estimate puts it at about 16% of the labor force. That number has increased by about 50% in the past decade with independent contractors accounting for most of that growth. During the same period, the number of traditional workers actually declined.
The problem in all this is that contingent workers have none of the protections and benefits that employees enjoy. Federal and State regulators are way behind the curve in this important shift.
You can view the full report on which this article is based here.
* Some estimates of the contingent labor force include also include part-time employees.