Quality work on the fringes

Overview

“Gig” workers could progress to skills, stability and better earnings. That would also be good for employers. But labor markets need to improve.

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Here’s the five key points:

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1) CONTEXT: So many people aren’t seeking a job

Am I available for work today? It depends on: Whether my back pain subsides….If a favored care worker can tend Dad….Length of wait at the hospital with my toddler….How many clients I get for my home hairdressing business…..What hours my primary employer needs from me.

Irregulars are in a gray area between unemployment and a traditional job (with benefits, prospects and predictable pay/ hours). Their numbers are increasing; and public services aren’t keeping up.

This isn’t about web designers, translators, lawyers or other at-home freelancers. They can pull projects off sites like Upwork, complete an assignment in their time, upload it and get paid. Our focus is irregulars whose skills equip them for huge sectors like; retail, hospitality, cleaning, distribution, care. For each period of work, they have to be at a specific place at a stipulated time; often wrestling with childcare, transportation or skills mismatches.

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

Issues around misclassification and need for portable benefits make headlines. But, irregulars have many problems. 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 connecting with employers using some combination of:

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  • Corporate scheduling systems: 41% of hourly employees don’t know next week’s hours. Systems typically deploy staff purely on the basis of their employer’s needs of the moment.

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  • 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.

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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.

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

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.

It’s called a CEDAH (Central Database of Available Hours). It knows where the opportunities and resources are for you. It may be able to immediately allocate a “guaranteed work” booking. Public support is integrated. Benefits and tax are seamless in the charge to employers. Users of flexi-labor are incentivized to nurture pools of workers who they promote. You may want to be in multiple pools at the moment.

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. Follow the link to see a CEDAH in action.

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4) CATALYST: “Full-spectrum employment support”

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 a core focus on traditional employment. Our open sourced report explains what to do.

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5) IMPACT: Personalized pathways

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 04.29.37 As the underlying marketplace 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 across organizations 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.

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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