Advanced markets for irregular work


Growing numbers of Americans are looking for jobs to fit their increasingly complicated lives.Irregular workers could progress to skills, stability and better earnings. It would be good for employers if they did. But labor markets need to improve.




Here’s the five key points:


1) CONTEXT: Low-skill employment is splintering

Many trends are buffeting labor markets: flat-lining wages, hollowing-out, automation, decline of manufacturing jobs. But the shift to irregular work is possibly the most immediate. If you don’t know how many hours you’re working this week, it can be hard to focus on lack of pay rises, promotion prospects or a future.

40% are ContingentIrregularity is not captured in official data. It is proving irreversible; driven by outsourcing, new technologies, changing lifestyles and declining union membership. Across retail, construction, health/home care, hospitality, distribution, household services and other sectors, workers are increasingly deployed on-demand.



 2) PROBLEM: It’s not working for workers (or employers)

These companies have discovered they can harness advances in software and behavioral sciences to old-fashioned worker exploitationIssues around misclassification and need for portable benefits make headlines. But, solve them and many problems for irregulars remain. Overheads in finding these periods of work can be prohibitive. Opportunities to progress are negligible. So there’s little motivation and high churn. That’s also bad for employers.

Anyone working very flexibly will be broadly using some combination of these channels:

There are markets built around the needs of workers. (Examples: UP&GO, Loconomics.) This option is only available in a few sectors in some cities.



3) SOLUTION: A different kind of flexi-labor market

Screen Shot 2018-01-11 at 4.35.27 PMImagine you need a few hours work this afternoon. You go to the website of a local employment charity, staffing agency or union. Through it you access an hourly-workers database for your region or city. It asks (a) what kinds of work you can do (b) the terms on which you will accept bookings (c) the hours you want to work; today, tomorrow or off in the future.

The database knows where the opportunities and resources are for you. It may be able to allocate a “guaranteed work” booking so you can quickly get on a ladder this afternoon. The intermediary whose website you used will be your employer-of-record, vetting your credentials and payrolling you. They get a mark-up paid by buyers.



4) CATALYST: “Full-spectrum employment support”

Turbulence has replaced the traditional American narrative of steady financial progress over a lifetime.Who initiates a low-cost, underlying, market for any kind of hourly work? Public workforce bodies have the networks, stability and neutrality required. Every state in the US already commissions a public market for all kinds of traditional jobs. Extending the ethos of those services to flexi-labor markets now seems an obvious step.

Like Caljobs, Employ Florida or Ohio Means Jobs, these markets for hourly labor widen choice. The hourly markets would be under local control, very low-overhead and full of uniquely detailed data. Delivering this requires a range of labor market stakeholders to start thinking beyond their core focus on traditional jobs.



Lifelong learning5) IMPACT: Personalized pathways

An underlying flexi-labor market for a city or region is called a CEDAH, (Central Database of Available Hours). As it quickly learns a work-seeker’s goals it can build their pathway. In search of stability? Expect to be nudged towards employers with a pattern of regular needs or job offers. Seeking a particular career? It could crunch the data to foster bookings with companies in that sector. After diverse skills at this point? Let it get you broad ranging assignments until you find a path.

You need work that fits around ever-changing medical, care-giving, parenting or studying commitments? It will build stepping-stones to quality work at your times on your terms. Interventions, skilling or support by any organization become cost-effective to target, administer and monitor. That is inconceivable now.


Mary phone picThe core technology for CEDAHs was funded in British government projects. But with problems around welfare changes in the UK slowing progress, we increasingly work abroad. Organizations including Aspen Institute, USCM, NGA, Living Cities, NASWA, NAWB and Bloomberg have promoted CEDAHs to US state and city governments

Of all the storms in labor markets, irregularity may be easiest to tackle locally. It’s in almost everyone’s interest to have the option of an accountable, stable, broad, market which progresses workers based on deep data about local needs. A range of organizations can add value on top of the basic service.


The Irregulars