Labor Day and independent workers

Happy Labor Day. Adam Barnes reports:

Independent workers – including freelancers, gig workers, or even those who rent out living spaces to others – make up an increasingly sizeable portion of the American labor force.

McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey (AOS) found that about 58 million Americans, or 38 percent of employed respondents, identify as independent workers.

The projection of independent workforce numbers includes both full-time work and those engaged in a side job. Yet 72 percent said they only hold one job. …

The survey showed that 50 percent of independent workers who hold bachelor’s degrees expect to experience continuous economic growth over the next five years.

But a majority still expressed concern about job stability, when compared to workers in permanent positions.

Reasons for independent work varied widely, according to the survey. About a quarter of Americans said their motivation is “out of necessity to support basic family needs.” Around half say they work independently for flexibility or because they enjoy the work – more than a quarter apiece for either response.

But independent workers still face challenges compared to traditional employees despite outsized positive economic moods and the added flexibility independent work offers. Only around 32 percent said they receive insurance from their employers. The survey found that independent workers also experience challenges relating to food security, transportation and childcare.

McKinsey noted that these issues could likely be the reason independent workers are more than twice as likely to seek assistance through government programs.

One reading of this is that more Americans are seizing the opportunity to build freer and more flexible lives. Another reading is that it’s time for changes in American law to better provide for the common good—changes that would promote single earner householders, changes ghat would reward growing families by reducing taxes, and changes relating to healthcare and transportation.

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