Advanced markets for irregular work


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Shadow montage 2There is quality demand for irregular workers. Millions need the opportunities. Poor quality marketplaces are a root problem.


Here’s the five key points:


1) CONTEXT: Employment is fragmenting

01 ComplicatedThe Gig EconomyPartial employment.  Falling participation in mainstream labor markets. Shadow workers. They are all part of a seemingly unstoppable worldwide trend.

In hospitality, retail, health/home care, catering, household services, hospitality, transport and other sectors; workers are increasingly deployed on-demand. Citizens are striving to sell their time, hour by hour, often across multiple employers.




2) PROBLEM: It’s not working for workers

Blatant worker abuse can be tackled in courts. Issues like worker classification and portable benefits are moving up national agendas. But there’s a fundamental issue for this new workforce: finding day-to-day periods of employment is uncertain and time-consuming. Then the work is typically low quality with little control.

03 - exploitationMuch of this work is found by asking around in the community. A lot of it comes from corporate scheduling systems. Only a small proportion is found through online marketplaces. But practices in these new labor exchange are particularly visible. They will arbitarily slash payrates, they can collapse without warning.

Opportunities to advance for these unstable workers are negligible. So there’s constant churn, keeping commitment and workforce quality low. That’s bad for economic growth.



3) SOLUTION: An underlying datastore

Some parts of the economy transitioned to small bookings while protecting sellers. Take travel: Airlines and hotel chains collectively set up the Global Distribution System (GDS). It’s a central datastore of: (a) availability of seats/rooms (b) how each is to be priced to maximize income.

Sites like Expedia, or Travelocity draw on GDS data and add a markup. Sellers in this market remain in control, with all the data they need to align with demand and realistically increase earnings.

A GDS gives sellers the widest possible market. They have refreshing data on opportunities and what their assets are worth. It enforces reliability, convenience and transparency; dramatically increasing overall demand for travel. The same broad concept can work in new labor markets.

04 Budget

4) CATALYST: “Full spectrum employment support”

Who initiates a low cost underlying market for hourly work? There is a sleeping giant currently sitting out labor market fragmentation: public workforce systems. Taxpayers spend billions a year to anticipate trends in employment, train workers, coach new entrants and re-engage those who have dropped out of labor markets. It’s bipartisan; healthy employment promotes self-reliance, cuts public costs, boosts local economies and broadens the tax base.

Around the world, this vast machine remains focused on jobs. But suppose it started to go full-spectrum; extending stabilizing services that underpin labor markets into the new era? We take it for granted there are publicly run online markets to match candidates and openings across the spectrum of jobs. Every US state commissions one. Europeans do it at national level. Why not also enable local markets of available hours built around flexi-workers’ needs, covering all types of work? The private sector lacks leverage and incentive to do it alone.




5) IMPACT: Information, interventions, innovation

The facility is called a CEDAH: Central Database of Available Hours. As with public job boards, any citizen can utilize a CEDAH alongside commercial alternatives. It takes in: (a) all the types of work they are willing to do (plus certification where required) (b) the terms on which they will sell their time (c) the hours they want to sell; today, tomorrow or off in the future.

market research AAG

Workers are vetted, insured and payrolled by intermediaries. Those organisations could be any mix of commercial temp. agencies, employment charities or public bodies; each inserting their mark-up on hours sold. A CEDAH is just neutral infrastructure for this uniquely complex labor market. Under local control, it can support routes to stability, progression, protections, training models, worker classifications and financial services that are inconceivable now.3 Freelancers


Some people are content in today’s fragmenting workforce. Current models seem to work for employers and investors willing to commoditize staff. But many see the current state of irregular work markets as destabilising and short-sighted. For them, any region or city can launch a CEDAH as an additional choice.


Mary phone picThe core technology was funded by British government projects. But with problems around welfare changes in the UK slowing progress at home, we increasingly work abroad. Organizations including Aspen Institute, Council on Foundations, US Conference of Mayors, National Governors Association, Living Cities, National Association of State Workforce Agencies and Bloomberg have promoted CEDAHs to US state and city governments


We are always keen to engage with further pioneers in workforce/ economic development. Contact details here.


The Irregulars