More Americans are Taking Jobs Without Employer Benefits Like Health Care Or Paid Vacation


More Americans Are Taking Jobs Without Employer Benefits Like Health Care Or Paid Vacation


The number of people employed in nontraditional ways in the US rose to a record 51 million this year, an unprecedented 34 percent jump compared to 2020. These types of workers, which include contract workers, people who are self-employed, temporary and on-call workers, and those who get short-term jobs through online apps or marketplaces are now equivalent to a third of US employment.

Gig work shifts the risk from employers to employees and can lead to financial volatility for those who do it. Independent work doesn’t include many of the protections afforded by traditional employment. It includes things like minimum wage, overtime, paid parental leave, and employer-subsidized health care. If people’s gig work doesn’t compensate enough to pay for those extras independently, it can put people at a severe economic disadvantage compared to regular employees.

Independent work has its perks. It offers workers the flexibility of being able to choose, to some extent, what, when, and where their work is.

California’s landmark bill AB 5 made many contractors into employees and afforded them the same benefits. The battle in California isn’t over. In August, California’s Superior Court invalidated Prop 22 and made it unenforceable, but gig companies say they are going to appeal.

Growth in business registrations for companies without employees has outpaced wage employment. Average weekly signups to the Freelance Union, a nonprofit that advocates for and provides resources to the growing independent workforce, grew 300 percent since the pandemic began.

Work found through online marketplaces was important for part-timers and full-timers as well. Some 40 percent of all independent workers reported finding jobs using online marketplaces, up from 27 percent in 2020.

The rise of independent work has been happening for decades and for a variety of reasons, from the dissolution of traditional employment to the proliferation of online platforms that connect people with this kind of work. Like many trends, it was accelerated by the pandemic, but it shows no signs of going away when the pandemic is over. And so the jump in gig workers in the US is something we should all be paying attention to.