It’s official; freelancers hate it when you call it the gig economy because the industry is of much, much higher significance than that. In fact, it is better described as the future of work and statistics prove that.According to an industry report Freelancing in America: 2017 freelancers are predicted to become the majority of the overall U.S. workforce within a decade, with nearly 50% of millennial workers already freelancing.Also, freelance workforce growth is accelerating and has outpaced overall U.S. workforce growth by 3x since 2014; and, because the work landscape is changing rapidly driven by automation and tech, freelancers are better equipped for the future due to more frequent reskilling.Currently 57.3 million Americans are freelancing (36 percent of the U.S. workforce) and contribute approximately $1.4 trillion annually to the economy, an increase of almost 30% since last year.The freelancing method of work is becoming increasingly popular because, as work changes, 54 percent of the U.S. workforce said they’re not very confident that the work they do will exist in 20 years. Reskilling is therefore critical; 55 percent of freelancers participated in skill-related education in the last six months versus only 30 percent of non-freelancers.And freelance-thinking is redefining the concept of work stability; with the uncertainties of future work looming over traditional employment models –e.g. AI and automation- freelancers increasingly think that having a diversified portfolio of clients is more secure than one employer (63 percent agree, up 10 points since the prior year) and have an average of 4.5 clients per month.The World Economic Forum (WEF) echoes the rise of freelancing and it’s on a worldwide scale, they say, under their website post titled “The future of work could lie in freelancing”. Currently freelancers make up 16.1% of the EU workforce and counting, the WEF says.DCR Trendline reports the same upsurge in Asia, especially countries like India, Pakistan, and Singapore; compared globally, freelancing in India comes second only to the US, they say, with India’s 15 million independent workers accounting for about one-third of global freelancer fees earned.The thread above clearly indicates that there are a lot of green lights ahead for the ever-rising freelancer industry worldwide. However, as can be expected, so are the rumblings of industry activists who accuse the handful of heavyweight industry platforms of unfair behavior; some examples are the ongoing 20% of fees taken from freelancers including on existing client relationships, they say; also, multiple other sundry fees sometimes apply and even platform participation rules are weighted in favor of the platforms themselves. As a result of the aforementioned perception of inequality, alternative industry formats – such as platform co-ops- are regularly bantered around within the communities; freelancers generally seek participation in the ongoing success and goodwill of their efforts, as opposed to thestrictly once-off nature of the per-job remuneration currently.But, that aside, the administrative processes within the platforms as they exist today are also considered to be clunky. There is huge reliance on traditional escrow-type processes, which have to be repeated time and again by both freelancers and their clients, even in the case of ongoing relationships; including the payment cycle where requests and submissions have to be made manually, which adds the cost of wasted time and actual payment fees both ways.Blockchain technology might be a suitable solution to firstly limit the over-reliance on the escrow-type of platforms currently required as the communal point of trust between strangers –freelancers and prospective clients- trying to connect from all corners of the earth. Peer-to-peer interaction on the blockchain can be regulated by means of blockchain apps e.g. smart contracts and the platform may be included for a once-off finders-fee instead of say the 20% on an ongoing basis.Secondly, for freelancers and clients who still prefer the platform format for whatever reasons, blockchain solutions may be employed to streamline processes within those platforms. For instance, the manual repetitive processes and payments are ideal for regulation by smart contracts as all platform relationships are already currently regulated by contracts albeit in repetitive, labor-intensive, manual formats.Given the evolved technical & digital nature of freelancer platforms as they exist today, we believe that the industry is ready for blockchain adoption.
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