Our work on online freelancing also served as a probe on the emerging platform economy.
Contrary to many concerns in the developed market economies, we found that almost all those participating in online freelancing were staying with their parents and doing the work part time. Concerns with variable income, uncertainty and difficulty in establishing credit were present, but in attenuated form. Which got us thinking about insurance as a mechanism to address those problems. Of course, health is one of the biggest uncertainties.
I can recall talking about Obamacare being ideally suited to a world where people moved from job to job, and even did multiple assignments or gigs simultaneously. So it was not so much a backward looking social welfare scheme but a forward looking enabling mechanism for the new economy. But to see the road ahead one must take one’s eyes off the rearview mirror, something that Trump and Republican majority appear incapable of doing.
If the last five years are any sign, the old pipelines to employment are obsolete. Instead there is freelancing; the “contingent work” or gig economy; and quick, lateral moves. An estimated one-third of the US economy is powered by freelancers. Workers in non-employment businesses like Uber and Airbnb rose from 15 million in 2007 to 24 million in 2014. And for those of us working full time with a company, our generation is still known for switching jobs three times as often as our predecessors.