Alternative Workforce Growing in Stride: 42 Million Freelancers Are Getting Gigs

Freelancers may not be the “starving artists” they are so often pictured being. In fact, new research indicates that the opposite is true.

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Alternative Workforce Growing in Stride
Freelancer works at cafe - Credit: Shutterstock

Research by Deloitte, an audit firm, suggests that “alternative” work, such as contract and freelance workers, is growing in large gains. By 2020, the firm projects that the number of self-employed individuals will triple to 42 million people. These freelancers can range from IT and technical positions, sales and even writing.

“For many years, people viewed contract, freelance, and gig employment as “alternative work,” options considered supplementary to full-time jobs,” Deloitte wrote. “Today, this segment of the workforce has gone mainstream, and it needs to be managed strategically. Given growing skills shortages and the low birth rate in many countries, leveraging and managing ‘alternative’ workforces will become essential to business growth in the years ahead.”

According to their findings, freelancers are the “fastest-growing labor group in the European Union with their numbers doubling between 2000 and 2014.” The firm even found in another study of millennial workers that 64 percent of full-time employees also have or want to do a “side hustle” to make extra money.

“If we look at this market around the world, we find many sources for these workers,” Deloitte wrote. “Traditional contingent staffing firms, such as Allegis and others, make up the core of the market, but new talent networks (such as UpWork, Fiverr, 99designs, and more) are growing quickly.”

In fact, Deloitte found through research that these types of employers are managing more than $2 billion in outsourced employment. That’s hundreds of millions of people performing freelance or contract work through these markets.

“What’s more, our 2019 survey showed that using alternative workers can enhance organizational performance,” Deloitte wrote. “This is the real reason that managing alternative work and workers well is strategically important: It enables an organization to put the right talent in place where and when it’s most needed to get results, in a labor market where traditionally on-balance-sheet talent is becoming ever harder to find.”

The demographics of alternative workers are changing. More and more people are looking to contract or freelance work to make some extra money on the side. However, there is a need for their services: companies facing a workforce shortage due to population decline seek their expertise and services to complete tasks. These contract workers provide a necessary service that can enhance workflow, provide a stable source of needed work and help individuals maintain self-employment.

“Risks and challenges like these are not insurmountable, and the alternative workforce is now a critical mainstay of the workforce for a growing number of employers,” Deloitte wrote. “Organizations that take this workforce seriously can build strategies and programs to access and engage talented people wherever they may sit in the labor pool, driving business growth and extending the diversity of the workforce.”

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