What Would a Largely Contingent Labor Force Mean for American Society

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17 Responses

  1. Avatar zic says:

    At least freelancers have Obamacare.

    That’s something.Report

  2. Avatar Kolohe says:

    ‘Largely’ contingent labor force means a majority, right? Your Harvard link makes a claim of 25% and that’s a global number.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      The article is also from 2012 and it could be growing.

      I do wonder though if there is a number of contingent labor that is not a majority but is unhappy enough about it to agitate politically and cause unrest.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        The internet says contingent / temp jobs spiked in the aftermath of the recession, but the rate of increase has slowed in the last couple of years.

        The US doesn’t have the youth bulge that countries that have the systemic maladjusted labor markets (and thus, endemic unemployment) that leads to political instability. (in contrast, Egypt is example of somewhere where this dynamic is true).Report

  3. Avatar Cardiff Kook says:

    Yes there are pros and cons of contract work. As I have mentioned previously I predominantly switched to hiring contract employees for the latter part of my career.

    The reasons were numerous:
    1). It is hard to hire and release people in dynamic, fast changing environments like new product development. As I created new products they needed different skill sets based upon the product and the phase of the development cycle. Contract employees just met my needs, as did consultant groups.

    2). Corporate bureaucracy got more and more burdensome on hiring and headcounts. I had multi million dollar budgets but extremely restricted freedom on headcounts. So I contracted.

    3). All this is of course assisted by state regulation. It is simply too cumbersome now to hire or fire folks without all the added expenses and red tape. So we do what is most convenient and fill labor needs externally. If I worked in a union environment I would never ever hire an employee.

    My point is that there are unintended consequences of actions — private or state driven — of adding rules regs and bureaucracy around employment.Report

  4. Avatar Damon says:

    Excellent post @saul-degraw!

    I think you nailed a few things. I’ve know some people who are of the “work only when I want to” group. Very highly specialized technical knowledge types. One guy, and this was a long time ago, coded COBOL and he went up and down the east coast taking jobs. The other, was called in when an expensive piece of hardware was giving the customer trouble and the first and second line serving guys couldn’t fix it. When you called him, it got fixed. Two examples in 30 years, and neither was working 5 months and travelling the world for the rest of the year.

    Contingent workers have their place in the economy, but it’s where that’s important. When my company owned it’s own building, it made sense to have facility as employees. The facility guys knew all the quirks on keeping the building working right. Now, with us moving to a leased building, a lot of that work is covered in the lease and they are needed less. So it might make sense for that type of work to be subcontracted out. The company doesn’t need a facility guy who knows how to keep a 30 year old A/C system running like in the old building. I also think contingents can play a role for those that are working part time. If you’re in school or college, or in a position where you can only be a part timer, that kind of work might be useful. Being a uber driver in between classes or on the weekend for example.

    The real downside to contingent has always been that full time = benefits because our system stupidly connected employers to employee medical benefits. Thanks WW2! One of the things I do not like is this 24/7 “on call” employees where they have to call in each day to find out when/if they work. As you said, that’s not a good way to live and have any structure if you’re constantly not knowing when you’ll be needed. But I’m not sure how you can square that, especially without contravening my political / economic worldview.

    Sadly, most of any recommendations will be to fix the immediate problem and that “there are unintended consequences of actions — private or state driven — of adding rules regs and bureaucracy around employment.” as @cardiff-kook said, will likely be ignored/not explored.Report

    • Avatar ScarletNumber says:

      Damon:

      The real downside to contingent has always been that full time = benefits because our system stupidly connected employers to employee medical benefits.

      This is the best part of ObamaCare. Conservatives should be happy about this. But they aren’t. Because Obama.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        @scarletnumber
        It’s not only “conservatives”. It’s people like me. I think employment and health insurance should be separated, but I don’t like obama care, don’t like how it was implemented, or anything related to it. I’d rather have regulations changed so that you didn’t have to get insurance coverage in the state you reside in, and some other things. But it won’t matter, in a decade it’ll be “the way things are” and everyone will accept it.

        Freedom crumbles a bit more each time….Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Freedom crumbles? You just said you like the “freedom” of being able to get insurance on an exchange rather than only thru your employer. As for breaking the employer-sponsored health insurance dealio … if employees simply decided to be remunerated in cash rather than an employer contribution to a group plan, the whole thing would end. (Granted, it might take tweaking the tax code…)

          But employees like their group plans, no?Report

          • Avatar Damon says:

            @stillwater
            “You just said you like the “freedom” of being able to get insurance on an exchange rather than only thru your employer. ” No I didn’t. I said “I’d rather have regulations changed so that you didn’t have to get insurance coverage in the state you reside in..”

            @zic
            I should have had a better segue on the freedom comment. But hold that thought. I’d prefer the ability to have insurance company’s be able to write policies for anyone in any state, should they choose. I think more providers provides better competition.

            The freedom comment was snark on what was, essentially, another massive social welfare program that was foisted upon the america public. It’ll end up making marginal improvements but will have lots of unpleasant unintended consequences, in my opinion.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Damon,

              Hey, apologies for bungling that up. FWIW, my comment was a reference to this claim of yours, made in your first post on the subthread:

              The real downside to contingent has always been that full time = benefits because our system stupidly connected employers to employee medical benefits.

              I mistakenly thought you were saying more there than you actually were. Sorry.Report

        • Avatar zic says:

          I’d rather have regulations changed so that you didn’t have to get insurance coverage in the state you reside in,

          This puzzles me, @damon

          Because the reason you can’t buy insurance across state lines is actually local control; despite Obamacare, states still have tremendous differences in how they regulate health care/insurance.

          So the freedom you think is crumbling is, perhaps, the loss of local control so that we have a national market?Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

          “I’d rather have regulations changed so that you didn’t have to get insurance coverage in the state you reside in, and some other things.”

          Because that worked so well with credit cards. I mean, it’d be impossible for the health insurance industry to buy off a small states legislature.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            I think it works better for credit cards than an alternative where every time I change states I need to swap out all my credit cards (and possibly change banks – cause my bank account goes four states back…).Report

  5. Sometimes my jobs are truly independent contract and I am able to set my own schedule and this is very nice. There are other times when I am more like a temp and my hours are set by my bosses or the hiring agency and the choice is accepting their terms or not working. This is not so nice.

    Speaking only for myself here, my own personal preferences are almost exactly the opposite. Assuming the amount of work is roughly the same, I much prefer the structure of hours set by my employers than the set-my-own-schedule type of work. Of course, the “amount of work” is usually not “roughly the same,” but in my (limited) experience it’s the set-my-own-schedule type of work that is more time consuming and stressful.

    I don’t intend any criticism of your point by saying this. Again, this is my own personal preferences for structure. I like going to work and I like leaving work at the end of the day.

    As for graveyard shifts, I worked a graveyard shift at a grocery store one summer in grad school. It was probably the worst job of my life.Report

  6. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I prefer the term “stateless actor”.

    It’s hard to see where all of this goes. I do know people my age with steady jobs that could continue until they retire and there is a great appeal to the idea of working at the same place for the next thirty years, getting remarried, having kids who I bore, and joining the PTA. But, man, that seems like a fishing pipe dream in this area.Report

  7. Avatar Will H. says:

    I worked a career for years where it was all or nothing. 60 hours a week was the standard workload. Sometimes I got OT on top of that.
    It wasn’t by choice, but by the demands of the industry.
    I got out for a number of reasons. I waited a bit too long perhaps.
    Knowing when to get out is the important part.Report