The gig economy is a category of work that is still largely undefined and unrecognized by U.S. policy, from the local up to the federal level. Nevertheless, the gig economy is growing and influencing the way that Americans view work, which poses a number of challenges for counties.
1. SHIFTING MINDSET OF WORK
The growth of the gig economy represents a shift in the way Americans view work. Instead of a more traditional system where a worker works full-time for only one employer, some workers choose to enter the gig economy for the flexibility, freedom and personal fulfillment that it provides them. Dr. Brown explained to workshop participants that his students expressed interest in more control and autonomy over their career paths. His students are also serial multitaskers: many of them want the stability of one anchor employer, alongside the exibility of simultaneous, smaller jobs. They want to spread their talent among di erent jobs.
2. POTENTIAL FUTURE WORKFORCE POLICIES
Much of America’s current workforce policies and social safety net were developed earlier in the 20th century with a different work culture in mind. Employees were expected, and far more likely, to work at one company until retirement and receive benefits from that company. Now, however, counties need to be prepared to adapt to the changing labor arrangements. The gig economy labor force is freelance and contract-based. As a result, gig workers, as independent contractors, do not receive benefits, like health insurance, from the technology platform companies; rather, they must procure them on their own.
During the workshop, Ms. Turner explained a few potential ideas that are currently circulating, including:
• “Dependent contractor” as a possible new category of worker to describe gig workers. Freelancers who receive the majority of their income from a specific company would fall under this category, and the company must provide benefits and follow certain regulations.
• Portable benefits, which are benefits owned by employees and taken to each new job they have. Companies that hire employees as freelancers would contribute to these benefits based on the prorated amount of work done for the company.