Who Is the Freelance Economy Hurting?

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From Time, Charles D. Ellison discusses the increase in the number of freelancers and raises questions about whether the freelance economy is a disadvantage to workers on the lower end of the economic scale.  Charles writes:

the freelance economy is troubling given the unbending and unforgiving realities of today’s economic environment. Among traditionally underserved populations, who face income inequality, stagnant wages, and underemployment, disrupting tech enthusiasts prompt more anxious questions than giddy answers. A ballooning freelance workforce means a permanent state of non-permanent wages, adding more uncertainty to an economic environment saddled by stuck income. As Pew found recently, “the average wage peaked more than 40 years ago: The $4.03-an-hour rate recorded in January 1973 has the same purchasing power as $22.41 would today.” While poverty is at 15 percent, economic inequality in the United States is obscene, a place where the top 20 percent own 84 percent of … well … everything.

Anecdotally and statistically, we see persistent public anxiety about the economy. A POLITICO poll discovered 64 percent of respondents feeling as if the country was “out of control” and only 36 percent believing it’s in a “good position to meet its economic and national security challenges.” When a subsequent POLITICO story highlighting economic concerns as a central issue in the upcoming elections dropped, it was peppered with quotes from average voters expressing “raw” concerns about matters such as “outsourcing” and “job growth.”

The question of who benefits becomes more pressing with each passing year the freelance economy grows. Interestingly enough, the decline of purchasing power since 1973 seems to mirror the upward trend of the “contingent” economy during that same period. And, along with the recession, it also means—eventually—that large segments of the population are getting left behind or will remain behind. Already, as Prospect’s Virginia Durivage pointed out some time ago, “most contingent workers are women and minorities clustered in low-wage jobs with no benefits or opportunities for advancement.”

Read the full story at Who Is the Freelance Economy Hurting?

While some contingent jobs may be filled by women and minorities, a recent survey suggests that the on-demand workers are predominantly male and Caucasian.  See What Does the On-Demand Workforce Look Like?

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