April 29, 2016

Employees only on doors

Temps: the new brand of employee. Credit: Chris Martino / Flickr Creative Commons

It’s tax season, and we’re predicting a record-high number of 1099 forms.

The rise of apps like Uber and TaskRabbit - along with technology that allows people to work from home - is creating a new army of freelance workers.

In 2006, about 31% of workers identified as freelance, temporary, or part-time workers. Economists predict that, by 2020, those workers will make up 40% of the workforce.

We’ve already explored how the gig economy can hurt workers more than it helps. But Jody Greenstone Miller believes that for “high-end” workers, it’s becoming pretty popular.

Keep in mind that what Miller terms “high-end” temporary work is very different from the jobs we’re likely to associate with the gig economy.

High-end workers, or supertemps, range from special-project consultants to interim executives. Low-end temps are often Uber drivers, administrative assistants, or pretty much anyone with a short-term contract.

Supertemps tend to be either consultants from established firms or executives who’ve risen to vice presidents and above at major corporations. They leave successful, full-time careers for positions with more flexibility.

“They want to choose what they work on and who they work with,” Miller explains. “They want control over their professional life.”

Miller notes that, “relationships between employers and employees aren’t what they used to be. That life-long security blanket is gone.” Pension plans have eroded, and the average work tenure has dropped to 4.5 years.

Though very few of us can hope to be supertemps, they do represent a larger trend in labor. In the past, bouncing from job to job was viewed as a sign of a bad worker. But, Miller argues, “the ability to move in and out of companies and make a contribution… can be more appealing today than someone who’s had a more traditional role.”

There is, of course, a more troubling trend that the rise of supertemps might hint at.

Though outsourcing may be great for highly-skilled workers, it might not be so great for the average employee. As the “temp-trend” progresses, we’re not sure what will happen to people on the lower rungs of the corporate ladder.

Business, Jody Greenstone Miller, Supertemps

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