By Drew Tulchin, Managing Partner of Social Enterprise Associates
Given the economic crisis in America, with unemployment at its highest levels in decades, creating new jobs for the 1 in 10 people out of work seems nearly impossible. Gone is the 1950’s “Company Man” who worked at one company for a salary, and got a tax form W-2 at year’s end. Not only do people today average 9 jobs over their career, but who has loyalty given downsizing, rightsizing, and outsourcing?
There is one labor market sector experiencing rapid growth – the mobile workforce. Increasingly, the U.S. is becoming a “1099 nation” –populated by contract based, service workers. This workforce has grown 800% over the past five years! It is the ultimate extension of the mobile work force; peoples’ jobs (or job sites) are different from their vocations.
Independent workers now comprise one third of the U.S. workforce. Organizations are sprouting up to serve them. Take the Freelancers Union, an advocacy group whose membership has reached 132,000 members. These folks receive benefits including insurance, retirement plans, networking, legislative advocacy, and community.
Given the flexibility of contract work and the difficulty of finding traditional salaried jobs, it is no surprise that freelancing is becoming the new normal. Access to support organizations makes starting out easier. Sara Horowitz, Freelancers Union founder says, “These trends aren’t just for a fringe workforce but increasingly for the mainstream. This recession has shown us the future is here.”
Everyone used to go to a place that had a physical phone with a phone number tied to that place. Now, we have one number issued to us and we carry the phone. This paradigm shift is mimicked in the workforce – work is based on where you are and defined by what you do, not where you go and what happens there.
Remember, many of the biggest and hottest companies today – Microsoft, etc. – were started during down economies. Futurists have long proclaimed atypical employment is the wave of tomorrow. Perhaps in a couple of years, we’ll look back and say, “Of course, it was so clear.”
Drew Tulchin, Managing Partner, Social Enterprise Associates, www.socialenterprise.net blogs about triple bottom line issues to use the power of the marketplace for a better tomorrow.