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November 16, 2016

How Can We Address the Evolution of Work?

Tomorrow, Freelancers Union, with the New York Fed and Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, will host Evolution of WorkThis event will bring together diverse leaders from industry, labor, government, academia, and the social sector to explore how work is evolving, the size and impact of the gig economy, and policy to support the next workforce.

We have witnessed dramatic change in the workforce, with the rise of new technologies playing a key role in the transformation toward flexible and distributed systems of work. Freelancers Union estimates that 55 million Americans freelance, either as full-time or part-time and supplemental work, contributing approximately $1 trillion in annual income to the U.S. economy.

With such a large a part of our workforce freelancing, we still know relatively little about their economic impact and how their work situations compare to that of the traditional workforce. Tomorrow, we’ll hear from leading experts on how to measure the size and impact of the new workforce. Our ability to conduct research on the workforce plays a critical role in shaping future policy, and we must keep policy concerns top of mind in our discussions.

The growth of the gig economy has brought with it new opportunities for a more agile, entrepreneurial, and on-demand workforce. It also requires us to think differently about how this workforce builds economic security. Without traditional employment structures and benefits, independent workers need new intermediaries and institutions that can enable them to pool risks and access portable benefits tailored to independent work.

New economy business models are built on the capacity for efficiently mobilizing networks of workers. Networks are providing unprecedented opportunities for workers to connect, share information and organize in ways that will continue to transform the economy. We must bring this networked approach into the DNA of our policymaking, and the social sector plays a critical role. By enabling social sector institutions to organize informal worker networks, we can better represent and support the interests of diverse constituencies, which is necessary to the functioning of the economy and democracy. Tomorrow we will discuss how to reconstruct the social safety net, what policies we must prioritize, and the role of government and institutions in building a new social infrastructure.

My colleagues and I look forward to tomorrow’s discussion, which will bring together a cross-section of leaders to discuss emerging issues for the American worker. The Federal Reserve’s work includes promoting fair and informed access to financial markets for communities and individuals. It does so by convening stakeholders, conducting research, and identifying emerging issues. It can do that best by reaching diverse groups and hearing the opinions and challenges of experts and practitioners. Our goal tomorrow is to bring together a broad spectrum of leaders and practitioners into conversation for meaningful exchange around policy for the new workforce.

This article was originally published by the New York Fed on Medium.

The views expressed in this article are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.


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