Are Part-time Gigs the Future?

I took that headline from a recent Newsweek article. More on that in a few paragraphs. But while I was grinding away on the elliptical trainer this morning I was watching and listening to the TV talking heads opining about the “jobless recovery.” And even the Maestro, Alan Greenspan, found his way to the talk shows Sunday to predict that unemployment will top 10 percent (at least) before long — and stay that way for, well, who knows.

So with another 263,000 jobs eliminated in September, unemployment is now at a 26-year high, around 15 million. But that doesn’t even tell the whole story. If you add in those who have dropped out of the job search — or who are working part time because no full-time job is available — the unemployment rate would be closer to 17 percent, or more.

Folks, this is more important that pointing fingers and wagging tongues about Obama failing to get even the bronze in Denmark. Or Letterman playing grab-ass with members of his staff.

I recognize there are no quick or easy answers to how to create jobs — or maintain the ones that exist today but may vanish tomorrow.

But consider this.

Are we a nation now where many are going to go from job to job — patching together as best they can an income that provides a modest lifestyle, at best? That’s one of the points in the Newsweek article, “The New American Job.” Here’s from the article:

Contingent workers–including part-timers, freelancers and contractors–consistently made up about 30 percent of the workforce between 1996 and 2005, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. That number might be higher the next time they measure: In the last year alone, the number of people working part-time because they couldn’t find full-time work almost doubled from 4.5 million to nearly 8 million. “The future is one in which tying your identity to the companies you work for is getting more and more tenuous,” says employment consultant John Challenger of Challenger Gray & Christmas. “Once they come to the conclusion that there’s no stable place to work, people are saying, ‘OK, I’m going to build my own workstyle.’ It’s almost like we’re going back to the days of the guild.”

This idea of a contingent work force has tremendous public policy implications — ranging from health care to retirement income and Social Security. It also has implications for employers from the standpoint of how you manage and motivate a work force that has few long-term commitments to the organization and in many cases even less loyalty.

Wonder if the Maestro gave any thought to any of this while he was behind the wheel of the nation’s economy — and steering it to the edge of the cliff?


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