The way we work has changed; how do governments adapt?
Over a decade ago Daniel Pink called it Free Agent Nation, " self-employed, the independent contractors, the temps…., people who move from project to project and who work on their own, sometimes for months, sometimes for days." Then there were the homeworkers, those of us who run businesses or write from coffee shops, sheds and home offices.
But it is not all so modern and high tech. A huge portion of economy is made up of people who do not work at full-time, permanent and stable jobs. Canadian Member of Parliament Andrew Cash, himself a musician who understands how hard this can be, says:
These new Urban Workers are contract employees, freelancers, self-employed or work part time with no benefits, no pension and little job security. Urban Workers are musicians and consultants, office cleaners and waiters, service sector workers and contract professors. They share many challenges and are all being ignored by this government.
Indeed from office cleaners to professors, as many as half the workers in a city like Toronto have marginal pension plans, no unemployment insurance, or any kind of security.
Cash is introducing a bill in Parliament that would make things better for the modern urban worker. The bill would extend unemployment benefits, and look at "options such as income averaging for vulnerable workers with highly volatile incomes"
He would also look at the whole range of issues that come from businesses switching to a part-time employment structure and the "changing type of work in urban areas, including:"
- Cracking down on the misclassification of employees as ‘independent contractors,’
- Preventing the misuse of unpaid internships,
- Ensuring temp agencies adhere to existing labour laws,
- Addressing the lack of additional benefits (health, dental, drug) for many Urban Workers,
- Examining ways to address other factors which compound precarious employment including lack of affordable housing, childcare and transportation.
With an increasing proportion of workers working part time and as independent contractors, this problem is only going to get worse. And we are talking Canada here, let's not even get started what it must be like in the United states, with its low minimum wages and health care system.
Of course Cash's bill won't go anywhere with a Conservative majority government calling the shots. The way many of use live and work has changed, but the new work force is largely invisible and easily ignored. For now.
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