Quality work on the fringes

Overview

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

 

Our 5 takeaways for workforce directors:

1) Meet Your Irregulars

About 20% of work-seekers in any region can’t commit to regular hours. They have a medical problem, caregiving, parenting, retirement activities, or studying that fluctuates day-to-day.

On top of this, many residents officially classed as jobholders are 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 scrabbling for hours elsewhere when their primary employer doesn’t need them.

Silicon Valley has shaped irregular labor markets. Uber is just the most scrutinized of platforms that cut pay, mislead work-seekers, secrete data and deduct 30% of earnings while investing heavily to curtail worker rights.

Pre-Covid, the Federal Reserve calculated 31% of adults were reliant on at least some gig work, other estimates were higher. That could be 40%+ in 2022.

more

2) Systematic Support

Government systematically supports traditional labor markets. 2,400 American Job Centers offer an alternative to for-profit staffing agencies. When job-seeking moved online, each state workforce board commissioned an all-sectors job platform as an alternative to commercial services like Monster or Indeed. This supportive infrastructure is beginning to evolve for the era of fragmenting employment.

A regional market for all types of non-standard employment can be so different from Silicon Valley’s offerings. Our platform is called a CEDAH (Central Database of Available Hours). W-2 status, wage enforcement, pro-rated benefits, and transparent data are built in.

Other functions include:

  • Local intermediaries: A CEDAH incentivizes community organizations or local businesses to become staffing agencies for residents.
  • Digital badging: These can capture each person’s multifaceted potential, connecting them with multiple types of work.
  • Fostering relationships: We incentivize companies reliant on flex-workers to nurture and progress pools of local people.
  • Data: We produce uniquely granular analytics on this currently murky corner of local labor markets.
  • Interventions: Tailored support for strugglers becomes cost effective.

more

3) Implementation

The platform described above is freely available to cities, counties or states that are ready to launch. The challenge for launch is identifying big users of flexible labor willing to adopt a system dedicated to data-driven upskilling of workers and exposing them to new opportunities with higher pay.

Hospitality, care, building, distribution, and retail are huge users of non-standard workers. But, having adopted scheduling platforms that can aggressively drive down labor costs, it’s hard to convince them to initiate an equitable market.

The biggest aggregate buyer of flexible labor in any region is government. Concealed across multiple departments – each with their own budgets, suppliers, and terminology – this enormous leverage is typically squandered. But public sector bodies have many reasons to kickstart an empowering, locally controlled, market for non-standard workers. That initial activity allows workers to prove themselves and brings in businesses.

We suggest a scoping exercise as a first step for any region. Our manual outlines who should be consulted, what they should be asked, and how findings can be modelled to determine viability of launch. → more

 

4) Business case

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

  • Race and gender equity: Ad-hoc work skews towards women and communities of color. They often work below minimum wage. Improving their options and protections attacks wider inequalities.
  • 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.
  • Widened worker pool: A sizeable number of your residents 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.
  • Protecting jobs: Emboldened by legislative wins that created an effective minimum wage of $5.64, gig work platforms are creating pools of commoditized, cheapened, labor. So, businesses shift from unionized jobs to gig work, a trend predicted to sweep the US. A better market creates more options for workers and disrupts this trend locally.
  • Why not?: Equitable, publicly provided, labor market infrastructure is core to workforce services. It has bipartisan support. The justification for excluding people not fortunate enough to have regular availability for work 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 the first US market. Badged “CalFLEXI” it has an initial focus on flexible childcare during the pandemic and is now expanding to other sectors and areas. → 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.

..

.The Irregulars