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Is the Future of Work Stuck in the Past?

Here’s an interesting and thoughtful piece from the National Freelancers Union. More people are talking about the new, freelance workforce (also known as the “gig economy”), but rarely from the point of view of those freelance workers themselves. Read on to get the union’s take on this tendency, particularly in academia:

Is the Future of Work Stuck in the Past?

This article is reproduced with the permission of the Freelancers Union partner, Trupo.

antique carAlmost 25 years ago, Freelancers Union was formed to cater to the needs of a growing independent workforce – one that didn’t have a mechanism to help everyone come together, pool resources, and advocate for their rights.

Now, roughly 56.7 million – one in three – Americans reported freelancing last year, contributing $1 trillion to the economy. Naturally, the rise of the gig economy, coworking spaces, and terms like “permalance” spark discussions and panels around the future of work.

Unfortunately, more often than not, Future of Work conversations focus on the impact on businesses rather than individual workers. Over a nice catered lunch, attendees are given advice on how businesses should market to the new workforce as consumers, and most recently, how technology and automation will affect business profitability and the labor force.

Notably absent from the talks are the middle-class workers directly shaping the future. These events happen at think tanks and academic institutions, fueled by an influx of philanthropic funding. Yes, they can lead to some interesting solutions for potential challenges the workforce could face, but they’re not coming from the people who are most affected by the changing work structure and economy. In fact, “The Future of Work” takeaways are often radically disconnected from the needs of American workers.

Read the rest of this article on the Freelancers Union blog.

 

Ahead of the Curve

freelance-written-on-chalkboard

This may not be the happiest news in the world, but it’s part and parcel of what we deal with as a nation. Welcome to the world of the independent contractor, which may be almost half of us by 2020. We already know the lifestyle. It’s nice to know that at least some media outlets are starting to report on this.

From The Boston Globe:

The gig economy is coming. You probably won’t like it.

Say goodbye to salaries, health insurance, and vacation days. Forty percent of America’s workforce could be freelance by 2020.

By Brandon Ambrosino  

KAGE YAMI is a ninja for hire.

For the past four years, the 27-year-old Newton resident has worked as a professional stunt performer for films and TV shows being made in the Boston area, like Ghostbusters, set for release this summer. Sometimes work takes him to New York. Sometimes California. Sometimes he models. Basically, he says, he takes on “whatever gig comes my way.”

 Yami is one of a growing number of workers participating in the “gig economy,” the hip-sounding term used to describe those Americans who make their livings in nontraditional ways — nontraditional meaning “in ways not limited to a 9-to-5 job” or, framed in less optimistic terms, “in ways that don’t usually offer health insurance.”

According to a 2014 study commissioned by the Freelancers Union, 53 million Americans are independent workers, about 34 percent of the total workforce. A study from Intuit predicts that by 2020, 40 percent of US workers will fall into this category.

Read the rest of this article.

Then feel free to chime in yourself. What do you think? Any ideas for stabilizing the coming independent workforce tsunami? What would you like to see by way of a sustainable social safety  net? In case you didn’t know, the independent workforce is now about 1/3 of the US economy. The same statistic holds true of independents in Arlington, Mass.

The comments section awaits you!