Quality work on the fringes

Overview

Irregular employment is proving unstoppable. America needs a model that works for everyone. That starts with a new kind of market for hourly labor.

Here’s our 5 takeaways for regional workforce directors:

 

1) Meet your irregulars

About 20% of adults in any region can’t work regular hours. They have a medical issue, caregiving, parenting, retirement activities, or studying commitments that fluctuate day-to-day. Too often, people who can’t commit regular availability for work each week are marginalized by public agencies, educators, unions, and philanthropies focused on jobs.

And many people officially classed as job-holders are actually irregular workers. Even in 2018, 41% of American’s hourly paid W2 employees didn’t know next week’s hours or pay. Many don’t know tomorrow’s.  They are left scrabbling for extra hours elsewhere when their primary employer doesn’t need them. Up to 40% of Americans do ad-hoc work illegally in the off-the-books economy. Regulatory efforts to reduce precarious work are opposed and having little impact.

Official data sources aren’t granular enough to totalize this trend. Pre-Covid, the Federal Reserve estimated 31% of adults were reliant on at least some gig work. That could be become 50% in 2022. Absent options from public agencies, workers turn to commercial platforms for on-demand work. Those labor markets are investing heavily to curtail worker rights.  → more

2) The need for a better local market

All sorts of interventions could help irregular workers. But, sustainable, hugely-scalable, support has to start with a better labor market for the full range of hourly workers.

Britain’s government took the lead in creating this. Their CEDAH (Central Database of Available Hours) technology now sits in an internationally focused non-profit for open sourcing.

A CEDAH platform for any city or region is under local control. It is built around protections, controls and progression for work-seekers, plus quality of workforce and alignment with needs of local businesses. Each worker is a W-2 with an intermediary vetting and supporting them in return for a mark-up on earnings. The system generates granular data and makes interventions to support strugglers uniquely cost-effective.

Public agencies are ideally placed to launch a CEDAH for their area. They already run infrastructure for the traditional labor market. Every state workforce board commissions its own platform to match any job opening in any sector with candidates. Services like CalJobs or IllinoisJobLink are an alternative to for-profit job boards. Our markets are the equivalent for irregulars.

 

3) Implementation

Why should businesses book their flexible labor through a platform progressing and empowering each worker? There is a sweet spot in sectors like care, construction, and hospitality where some companies can immediately gain from allowing workers to prove reliability and attract more options. Doing so can drive retention and quality. Demand for top-up workers from the public sector can also help get a market going.

We have an open-sourced manual explaining how to successfully launch. Its key point: don’t start the local market until a first wave of businesses and agencies are on board. Otherwise, there will be too many workers and not enough work.

Once the market is launched it should be overseen by an accountable local body such as a workforce board. The flexible work platform can be integrated with publicly run job boards, public assistance, and other systems.  → more

 

4) Business case

With so many problems in post-pandemic labor markets, why go beyond jobs into infrastructure for irregular workers?

  1. Race and gender equity: Ad-hoc work skews towards women and communities of color. Improving their options and protections attacks wider inequalities.
  2. Data to inform decisions: A sophisticated local labor platform will capture uniquely granular data on patterns of activity, earnings, demand, supply, travel distances and skill utilizations. Training, support, and other interventions can become uniquely tailored.
  3. Widened worker pool: A sizeable number of your citizens don’t fit the rigid labor structures of traditional employment. But drill down, you will likely find many businesses and public agencies can accommodate people needing more fluid employment if a trustworthy platform will handle verification, scheduling, time-recording and payroll.
  4. Protecting jobs: Emboldened by legislative wins that created an effective minimum wage of $5.64, gig work platforms are creating pools of controlled, commoditized, cheapened labor. So, companies shift from unionized jobs to gig work, a trend predicted to sweep the US. A better market that takes out investors’ charges disrupts this trend locally.
  5. Why not?: Your Job Centers are an alternative to commercial staffing agencies, launched in reponse to shabby treatment of workers. Your state’s all-sectors job bank is an alternative to for-profit job-boards.  Equitable labor market infrastructure is core to workforce services with bipartisan support. Gig work is localized and public agencies are big buyers. You have huge leverage in this part of the local economy. The justification for ignoring citizens not fortunate enough to have regular work availability is….? → more

 

5) About us

Beyond Jobs is a project of the non-profit that emerged from British government programs to create better labor markets for people with complex lives. Leading the world, but with problems around welfare changes in the UK slowing progress at home, we work internationally. Annie Casey, Walmart, Kauffman, Wells Fargo and James Irvine Foundations funded our US work.

Bodies including Living Cities, National Governors Association, National Association of State Workforce Agencies, National Association of Workforce Boards, California Workforce Association and Aspen Institute have promoted our work in the US.

Based in a 501(c)3 created by the public workforce board for City of Long Beach, CA, our American launch preparation won US Conference of Mayors’ prize for best community-led economic or job development initiative in America. In April 2020 we launched a first market for the Los Angeles/Orange region. Badged “CalFLEXI” it has an initial focus on flexible childcare during the pandemic and is now expanding to other sectors.  → more

 

Sustainably supporting the irregular workforce at scale has never been more pressing. 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 underpinned by deep data about local needs. A spectrum of organizations can offer services on the neutral market platform.

We work with public agencies, funders and other stakeholders around the US.

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.The Irregulars