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Report: 16 Million Independent Workers in U.S.

September 06 2011

There are some 16 million independent workers in the U.S. today and 28 million Americans are considering becoming independent within the next two years, according to a report released today by MBO Partners Inc.

In addition, the study found 55 percent of independent workers said it was their choice to become independent and 63 percent said they will continue as an independent worker regardless of the reason that motivated their decision to first become an independent worker.

The study aimed to “try to get an understanding of the size of the market and the inclinations and motivations as to why people decide to move into this type of independent work,” said Gene Zaino, president and CEO of MBO Partners.

“We really consider this a landmark study,” Zaino said, adding that prior to this there was not a lot of information available on the independent workforce.

Independent workers, as measured by the survey, are those whose job status is one of the following:

  • Fixed-term contract
  • Independent consultant
  • Working through a temporary agency
  • On an on-call arrangement (contract work that is based on being ready to serve)
  • Own a business with less than five employees.

In addition, to be considered, workers had to be 21 years old or older and work 15 or more hours a week.

The survey found that 49 percent of independent workers were members of GenX (ages 30-49), 12 percent were members of GenY (ages 21-029), 30 percent were baby boomers (ages 50 to 64) and 10 percent were ages 65 and up.

As a trigger for choosing independent work, 47 percent cited a desire for greater work-life flexibility. And while 63 percent said they plan to continue as an independent worker, only 19 percent said they planned to seek a permanent full-time job. The key reason among those seeking a permanent full-time position was more predictable income with 37 percent citing that as a reason.

Forty-five percent had a four-year college degree and 70 percent earned less than $60,000.

The report is based on two online surveys. One included 1,144 responses from residents of the U.S. which was used to size the independent workforce. The other included 601 responses from independent workers to profile their motivations and characteristics.

MBO Partners provides business services to independent contractors as well as independent contractor payrolling and compliance services for staffing buyers.


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Ted Weyn 09/07/2011 10:12 am

Interesting findings. In 2010, HCMWorks produced a white paper titled, Ahead of the Curve, these recent finding support our prognostications of where the HCM market is headed. If readers are curious to learn more and to see a copy of the report, visit, http://www.hcmworks.com/blog/whats-in-the-works/

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