Advanced Markets for Irregular Employment



Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 08.47.57Irregular 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 your hours or pay this week, it can be hard to focus on a rise, a promotion or the 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 huge 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 alignment and high churn. That hurts employers and growth.

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

  • Word-of-mouth: Far more irregular work is found offline, typically for cash-under-the-table. America’s shadow economy is reckoned to have doubled in recent years. Workers are unprotected; legitimate employers suffer.

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

“Everyone thinks of this issue as an app problem with Uber, Lyft and TaskRabbit,” …... “People don’t realize that you go to a hotel and the workers are subcontracted out. You go to a restaurant and it’s the same thing. It’s becoming so prevalent, and people don’t realize it.”Imagine you need a few hours work this afternoon. You go to the website of a local employment charity or staffing agency. Through it you access an hourly-workers database for your area. It asks (a) all the 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 deep database knows where the opportunities and resources are for you. It may be able to immediately allocate a “guaranteed work” booking. Benefits and tax are seamless in the charge to employers. The intermediary whose website you used will be your employer-of-record, vetting your credentials and payrolling you. They get a mark-up within the charge.



4) CATALYST: “Full-spectrum employment support”

Turbulence has replaced the traditional American narrative of steady financial progress over a lifetime.Who initiates a lowest-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 seems an obvious step.

Like Caljobs, Employ Florida or Ohio Means Jobs, these markets for hourly labor widen choice. They could be under County or City 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.



5) IMPACT: Personalized pathways

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 04.29.37An 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 primary employment? Or ever-changing medical, care-giving, parenting or studying commitments? It will build stepping-stones to quality work. Interventions, skilling or support by any organization becomes uniquely cost-effective.


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, NGALiving 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 offer services on the market platform.


The Irregulars