Work Arrangements: Improved Collaboration Could Enhance Labor Force Data 

The United States General Accountability Office (GAO) recommends that the Department of Labor and Office of Management and Budget work to improve data for nonstandard and contract work arrangements because data collection on these workers is spread among federal agencies who, among other things, use different terms to describe these workers. The GAO writes: 

Millions of U.S. workers are in nonstandard and contract work arrangements—that is, work that is not permanent, year-round, and full-time employment with predictable hours.

Policymakers want to understand such work arrangements and how workers fare in terms of wages, benefits, and workplace safety. However, federal agencies define and measure these arrangements in various ways, so it’s hard to know their prevalence and outcomes.

We recommended that the Department of Labor and the Office of Management and Budget work on increasing collaboration among federal agencies—such as by establishing a working group—to improve data about these workers.

Driving for a Ridesharing Service Is an Example of Nonstandard Work

The inside of a car with a driver and a person in the back seat holding a cellphone.

Highlights

What GAO Found

Federal agency estimates vary widely with respect to the share of workers in nonstandard and contract work arrangements—that is, work that is not permanent, year-round employment with predictable full-time hours. Estimates range from less than 5 percent to over 30 percent of the total workforce, depending on the type of arrangement measured, how it is defined, and methodology used. In addition, limited data are available on worker outcomes, such as those relating to workplace safety, wages, and access to benefits. However, available data indicate that nonstandard and contract workers generally have fewer benefits and workplace protections than permanent, full-time employees.

Data collection on nonstandard work arrangements is fragmented across at least seven federal agencies, which measure different populations and use varied terms and methodologies to meet specific purposes. This fragmentation contributes to limitations in data quality and results in varying estimates of nonstandard and contract work arrangements that are not directly comparable. As shown below, multiple terms may be used by one or more agencies to describe a single job—such as a dog walker—depending on specific circumstances.

Selected Terms That May Be Applied to the Same Work (Dog Walker), by Federal Entity

Selected Terms That May Be Applied to the Same Work (Dog Walker), by Federal Entity

Federal agencies have taken some steps to address data limitations relating to nonstandard and contract workers, such as commissioning a panel to review a key survey of these workers. However, interagency efforts do not include an ongoing collaborative mechanism, such as a committee or working group, and have not been effective in addressing data quality issues or fragmentation. Agencies reported prioritizing the needs of their individual programs in their data collection efforts. Without an ongoing interagency collaborative mechanism in place—and agencies providing coordination and leadership for such an effort— agencies can risk working at cross purposes and lack incentives to prioritize crosscutting concerns. Data improvements from such an effort could help policymakers and others better understand this labor market segment and worker outcomes in it.

Source: Work Arrangements: Improved Collaboration Could Enhance Labor Force Data | U.S. GAO

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