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Expendable or entrepreneurs?

Friday, July 19, 2013

I had a debate with union leaders at a conference last week. It was truly a ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ experience. They were on about their ability to dictate ‘fairness’. I was about entrepreneurship through the human experience. We just didn’t ‘get’ each other. It was a robust exchange!

I’d agree with The Economist in its recent article “Talent exchanges on the web transforming the world of work”. It shows how independent contractors are a different wave of work engagement. The business model has changed. A ‘firm’ is no longer necessarily an employment command-and-control pyramid.

I explained this in my book Independence and the Death of Employment first published in 2005 and now available on Amazon. Here’s a review from Economics.org.au.

This doesn’t mean that independent contractor numbers are constantly rising. We’ve covered before how the deliberate policies of the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Labor governments have attacked self-employed people and reduced numbers in Australia by 130,000.

Naturally, numbers can and do fluctuate. In 2009, US independent contractors made up 1 in 9 workers (15.9 million). This has apparently dropped in the last four years during the great recession. But still commentators see the US as a nation of permanent freelancers. This seems to anger unions who insist it’s an employer conspiracy. This article, for example, views freelancers as ‘The Expendables’.

Although this is not an issue at front of mind for most people, the divide in these concepts is central to much of the political battle over economic policy.
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