Updating the Way We Think of the Gig Economy
Gig economy work encompasses all things freelancers these days. As a result, we are getting some good gig data back from the government. Consider the National Association of Counties in Washington DC that has released some insight via “The Future of Work: The Rise of the Gig Economy.” Based on 2017 data from freelance workshops by the Counties Futures lab, this information touches on new definitions for gig workers and benefits. Yes, benefits.
Newly Defined Gig Workers
The data in the report by NACo says what we already know but in numbers. The share of gig workers accounted for 15.8 percent of the US workforce and economy in 2017. This was an increase of 5.7 percent from the year prior. More notably, 24 percent of US adults were making money in the gig economy in 2016 in some way.
This is an increase from 3.9 million to 9.2 million adults from 2016 to 2021, which is a lot of people. Here is the start of the issue with the gig economy. There is no clearcut defining category for all gig workers or system of classifying gig workers for things like health benefits. According to the NACo, the best way to categorize the gig economy covers three main categories:
- Internet platform-based workforces, such as WriterAccess, Uber, and Etsy
- Laborers who perform gig work for full-time employment, such as delivery persons or movers
- Artisans who sell a creative product, such as clothing or cabinetry
All of these workers offer such a different product or service, and some working full time while others work part-time. As a result, creating a centralized system to manage benefits and services on a state or federal level is quite difficult.
The report discusses one idea that came out of the workshop for naming gig workers. The official title “dependent contractor” would apply to all gig workers. This way the government could come up with a way to provide resources including benefits and professional assistance.
Portable Benefits for Freelancers
Another exciting idea to come out of the workshop pertains to benefits for freelancers. Because as we freelancers all know—there is no such thing as health insurance and retirement options for all.
The NACo reports an idea currently circulating is that freelancers who receive most of their income at one company would receive benefits. These benefits would not be free of course. Freelancers would contribute to benefits as they would if working in a permanent full-time position.
The way this would work with freelancers who change clients or companies is through portable benefits. These are benefits for employees that are carried from job to job. Company contributions would be based on the prorated amount of work the freelancer successfully completes for the company.
Regulatory Compliance for Freelancers
In addition, these companies would be required to follow regulations for dependent contractors. Not sure anyone wants to deal with the regulatory compliance issues that would ensue or the data tracking that would most likely come along with that, but if you get government benefits you can expect to give up some data in return.
Business Planning Resources for Freelancers
The NACo workshop also addressed what is missing from the way freelancers operate in the US economic system. When it comes to taxes and business licenses, freelancers often don’t know which way to go and end up paying more in the long run. Having resources available for new freelancers, gig workers, or dependent contractors is beneficial to ensure workers can stick with this career choice for the duration.
With more research and resources dedicated to dependent contractors, the freelance and gig economy is looking brighter.
You can also check out other ways to make your freelancing future look brighter right here at WriterAccess.
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