Future of Work

While the gig economy is expanding in the US, worker benefits are not adapting to keep pace.

Gig growth: According to a new report out from Brookings, the number of nonemployer firms—primarily incorporated freelancers and gig-economy workers—has grown 2.6 percent every year since 1997. By contrast, payroll employment has grown by only 0.8 percent annually in that time. That means a growing number of people lack employer-sponsored benefits like paid leave, health care, and retirement assistance.

An answer: The Aspen Institute has proposed a system of portable benefits that are not tied to one job. Companies would make contributions to a worker’s benefits on the basis of how much the employee works for them.

Moving things forward: To date, the US government has not been helpful. House and Senate bills supporting gig-worker benefits have died in committee. But state and local governments are taking action. Washington, California, New York, and New Jersey are exploring avenues to provide benefits to their gig workers.

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