THE BLOG
01/29/2016 05:46 pm ET Updated Jan 29, 2017

Work Has Changed; 2016 Is the Year Government Realizes What It Means

It's hard to turn a corner without hearing discussion of the on demand economy and America's growing population of independent workers. From daily discussions of gig economy media darlings like Uber to the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, which focused heavily on the "Fourth Industrial Revolution," it's apparent to anyone who wishes to look that tomorrow's workforce will be dramatically different than the long term employer-employee model of the past.

At MBO Partners, this is cause for celebration. It's the validation that our own work (along with that of our industry peers) is finally achieving the attention it has long deserved.

The independent workforce currently stands 30.2 million strong and will rise to 45 percent of the private, non-farm workforce by 2020. This number, from MBO Partners 2015 State of Independence Survey, accounts for the number of people who regularly work both full and part-time as an independent. The group is growing by the minute -- and is even larger if one adds in the workers who pursue on-demand or gig work on an as-desired or semi-regular basis.

The numbers speak for themselves; the future of work is here.

In 2016 we'll see various groups as well as state and federal agencies continue to grapple with the challenge of meeting the needs of the self-employed worker.

Earlier this week, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez headed to Silicon Valley to discuss this very topic with high-tech industry leaders and venture capitalists. "The on-demand economy raises important questions about how to continue upholding time-honored labor standards and how to promote economic security for American workers in a changing labor market," he wrote, also announcing his intent to revive a survey of contingent workers as an effort with the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics. Talking with key players is good first step; we also support his actions. The survey revival marks the first effort in more than a decade on the part of the federal government to offer accurate insight into the size, type and scope of our nation's contingent workforce.

As I discussed with CNN on Tuesday, this is big news, and it's also a project that should be approached carefully. Sizing the gig economy -- and the independent workforce as a whole -- is no easy task. But size is only one part of the issue. We need real solutions that enable independents to leave the limitations of traditional employment and seize the opportunity to forge their own independent businesses.

We look forward to continuing the discussion with the industry's key players to arrive at a solution that will unleash the excitement and satisfaction that independent work delivers, insure responsible and accountable funding of important social safety nets and enable organizations of all sizes to easily and safely engage this workforce without the fear of ambiguous worker reclassification penalties.