Contractors and the On-Demand Economy

A recent Huffington Post article by Susan Lund from McKinsey Global Institute tackles what the rise of the on-demand economy means for the future of work.

As new platforms like Upwork, TaskRabbit, Freelancer.com, and Uber emerge an increasing number of workers are shifting contractor type work relationships. As the article states “Some are freelancing by choice, relishing the opportunity to set their own schedules, choose their assignments and work independently. Others have turned to contingent work out of economic necessity.”

One of the challenges of managing employment in the future will be allowing the flexibility for those who want to do freelance work while protecting those who have no choice. Getting this right is important as the work done under these new arrangements can lead to substantial efficiency gains and increased growth.

It notes that already:

“Countries such as Germany and Canada, for example, have a "dependent contractor" category that grants some additional protections to workers who fall somewhere between employees and independent contractors and are dependent on a single employer.”

And for the future:

“If the digital revolution makes alternative working models and employment relationships more commonplace, policymakers will need to consider designing a system of more portable benefits. New online marketplaces and intermediaries may emerge to meet this need. Or unions could fill the gap, providing benefits and even training and credentialing for members, as they have done in the construction industry and for Hollywood writers and movie professionals.”

What are your thoughts? Are there new ways we can organise people providing labour so employers can have the benefit of “on demand labour” without jeopardising employment or income security for the workers involved?

Read more about issues like these in our Security and Technology issues papers.


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  • commented 2015-12-27 17:51:19 +1300
    It seems Freelancer.com has scammed some people’s money from them… might be a good idea to edit and remove their name from the post after maybe looking into this a bit more.
  • commented 2015-11-11 09:46:04 +1300
    The Huffington Post is a pretty right-wing rag and so predictably pedals the ‘tsunami theory’ promoted by corporate ‘researchers’ that technology is going to slam us all to oblivion unless we workers adapt and all adopt the ‘flexibility’ of 20-somethings, and freelance by ‘choice’. Contract work is promoted as the new normal, with some token benefit protection suggested for workers who have absolutely no um, choice (the devil would be in the detail in terms of how this was defined). Oh yes, and our incredibly strong unions can fill the gap with worker training, just like they do in Hollywood. Hmmm… We would probably have to pay a little bit more for that. Especially when even union services are contracted. Hasn’t National just awarded the contract for union education to a private company rather than the Council of Trade Unions?