A Rising Gig in the Economy: Freelancers

Date: October 08, 2015

With more small businesses using contractors and more employees drifting to one-task employment opportunities, the economy is shifting—and politicians are starting to listen.

Freelancers are the new gig in the economy. They’re changing the way Americans find employment, and may change labor regulations.

The “gig economy,” or the current trend of companies that rely on a network of contractors, is growing because more people are trying to make a living by fulfilling one-time tasks or doing freelance work. About one-third of the work force, or 53.7 million people, now do freelance work, an increase of 700,000 from a year earlier, according to a recent study. Nearly three-quarters of the freelancers surveyed agreed that technology was making it easier to find work.

Lawmakers are being pressured to take a more complete view of what it means to freelance, The New York Times reported. Some small business owners say lawmakers should create a new worker classification that fits positions that fall somewhere between full-time employment and independent contracting.

Politicians are listening, though they are wary of the impact of a shifting economy. Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton spoke cautiously about the steady return to an entrepreneurial economy in July. “This on-demand, or so-called gig economy, is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation. But it is also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.” 

RELATED: Learn more about what US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez thinks about the rise of the gig economy.

The shifting economic structure has prompted a stream of policy makers to visit startup executives in Silicon Valley, and tech leaders to head to Washington to discuss worker protections, classifications and the future of the entire American labor market. 

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