Shocker: 40% of Workers Now Have ‘Contingent’ Jobs, Says U.S. Government

From Forbes, Elaine Pofeldt discusses a recent GAO report that finds that 40% of workers have contingent jobs.  She writes:

the findings about contingent workers are pretty startling when you look at them as a whole. Consider some of the challenges they face.

  • Higher poverty rates: While only 10.8% of standard full time workers have a family income of less than $20,000, 33.1% of core contingent workers—meaning agency temps, on-call workers and contract company workers—report family incomes this low. (In comparison, 18.8% of independent contractors are in this income range).
  • Low pay: Contingent workers had median hourly earnings in 2012 of $11.95, compared to $17 for workers with standard full-time jobs. They earned about 10.6% less per hour on average. Reflecting the fact that many contingent workers are involuntary part-timers and can’t always get work when they want it, their median annual earnings were $14,963 vs. $35,000 for full-time workers.
  • Greater job instability: Among core contingent workers, 28.5% said they were laid off in the past year, compared to 18.4% of independent contractors, 8.2% of standard full time workers and 5.9% of standard part time workers.
  • Less access to to private health insurance: Among contingent workers, 61% were covered by any private insurance plan, compared to 77.9% of workers in standard jobs. Some may be receiving government heath benefits, but I didn’t see a statistic for how many in the report.
  • Higher reliance on public assistance: Among contingent workers, 11.1 percent were part of a family in which someone received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits—which used to be called food stamps–vs. 5.6% of workers in standard jobs. Contingent workers also had a higher rate of using other public benefits. Among these workers, 1.8% received cash benefits from a state or country welfare program, compared to .4% of workers in standard jobs. And 1% received Supplemental Security Income (SSI), compared to .3 percent of workers in standard jobs.

Another trend the report underlines is the fading of good, blue-collar jobs–traditionally a source of stable, middle class jobs for men. It is increasingly becoming contingent work, assigned through agencies…”

Elaine also observes that there are two types of contingent workers.  She says:

The report shows there are really two worlds of contingent workers. Self-employed folks and independent contractors are pretty happy with their situation overall, compared to other continent workers. They’ve often chosen to run their own businesses because they love the freedom and independence, in my experience.

Asked if they would prefer a different type of employment, only 7.5% of self-employed people and 9.4% of independent contractors said yes. In stark contrast, 48.3% of on-call workers and day laborers and 59.3% of agency temps said yes.

Read the full story at Shocker: 40% of Workers Now Have ‘Contingent’ Jobs, Says U.S. Government.

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