The Freelance Economy

Today, careers consist of piecing together various types of work, juggling multiple clients, learning to be marketing and accounting experts, and creating offices in bedrooms/coffee shops/co-working spaces. Independent workers abound. This transition is nothing less than a revolution, says Sara Horowitz, the founder of Freelancers Union, a non-profit organisation representing the interests and concerns of the independent workforce.

Now, employees are leaving the traditional workplace and opting to piece together a professional life on their own.

  • As of 2005, one-third of the US workforce participated in this "freelance economy."

  • Data show that number has only increased over the past six years.

  • Entrepreneurial activity in 2009 was at its highest level in 14 years, online freelance job postings skyrocketed in 2010 and companies are increasingly outsourcing work.

  • While the economy has unwillingly pushed some people into independent work, many have chosen it because of greater flexibility that lets them skip the dreary office environment and focus on more personally fulfilling projects.

    These trends will have an enormous impact on our economy and our society. Consider:

  • We don't actually know the true composition of the new workforce – after 2005, the government stopped counting independent workers in a meaningful and accurate way. Since policies and budget decisions are based on data, freelancers are not being taken into account as a viable, critical component of the U.S. workforce.

  • Jobs no longer provide the protections and security that workers used to expect. The basics – such as health insurance, protection from unpaid wages, a retirement plan and unemployment insurance are out of reach for one-third of working Americans.

  • Our current support system is based on a traditional employment model, where one worker must be tethered to one employer to receive those benefits; it's time to build a new support system that allows for the flexible and mobile way that people are working.

  • This new, changing workforce needs to build economic security in profoundly new ways.

    The solution will rest with our ability to form networks for exchange and to create political power, says Horowitz.

    Source: Sara Horowitz, The Freelance Surge Is the Industrial Revolution of Our Time, The Atlantic, September 1, 2011.

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    First published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, United States

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 06 September 2011

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