Monday, March 8, 2010

The new normal: an army of freelance workers?

As reported by Jim Axelrod of the CBS Evening News on March 6, the number of freelance workers has exploded since the start of the “Great Recession” in 2008. One-third, or 40 million workers, now call themselves freelancers. College graduates are lamenting the near total lack of job opportunities, so they’re taking on freelance work under the laudable goal not to remain idle or join the ranks of the unemployed.

“We are headed for a lower wage economy. We’ve had the best benefits, health care, retirement, that anybody on the globe had access to. But we’re no longer in that bubble, that special position, we were 20 years ago,” said CEO John Challenger of Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, an outplacement services company.

While full-time workers won’t necessarily go away, what will change is the way companies will get specific tasks accomplished; by deploying an army of freelancers who will get the job done and then leave, said Sarah Horowitz, founder of the Freelancers Union, a national membership organization offering insurance and retirement benefit to its members. Its rolls swelled by 50,000 since the start of the recession, and membership is expected to double again by 2012. Bringing in freelancers, contract workers, independent contractors, whatever the name may be, holds down the number of full-time workers and all the costs associated with their full-time status.

The report concluded with this rather chilling question: What if this way of doing business becomes the rule for the long run?

The report, as televised, is available here:


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