“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.