One of the defining economic trends of our time is the collapse of the blue social model—that is, the fading of 1950s-style lifetime employment at a single company with generous benefits and the rise of a more dynamic labor market characterized by entrepreneurship and gig work.
Many politicians and opinion leaders on both sides of the spectrum treat this transformation as a threat to be confronted and reversed. Our argument at Via Meadia has always been that while the transition will be painful and disruptive, it also holds tremendous promise for the future.
New data suggests that gig workers feel more-or-less the same. While some independent contractors are stretched thin and would rather have the security of an old-fashioned job, the majority relish the the freedom that comes with post-blue employment arrangements. The Wall Street Journal reports:
A new report from the McKinsey Global Institute released today adds to the body of evidence that the majority of independent workers actively sought out their arrangements and are happy with them, but a sizable minority is in the so-called gig economy reluctantly. […]
Asked to rank their satisfaction across a range of metrics, those who actively opted into their independent arrangement are “happier than people in traditional jobs by every measure,” said Susan Lund, a McKinsey partner who co-authored the report. “They like being their own boss, they like the independence and the flexibility and the creativity.” […]
“There are certainly reluctant independent contractors who feel forced into it and are a very vocal segment, but our research consistently for six years has shown the satisfaction rate of independent contractors is really high,” said Gene Zaino, chief executive of MBO. “A lot of people who are doing this kind of work don’t want to go back to the traditional 9 to 5.”
These findings don’t mean that the rise of independent contracting (which, as the report notes, increasingly dominates a variety of fields, from Uber drivers to freelance journalism to to tax accountants) should be uncritically boosted. Public policy still needs to be overhauled so as to make these workers more secure. That means making privately-purchased healthcare plans cheaper, helping workers without employer plans save for retirement, and simplifying the business tax code for people who are self-employed. The important thing is that politicians support new employment arrangements rather than ramming them into onerous 20th-century regulatory structures.
Despite the competing brands of nostalgia dominating our politics on left and right, the post-blue economy stands to deliver a great many benefits that we have yet to realize. Productive policy will embrace this shift rather than fighting the future.