The landscape of American work has seen transformative shifts, with an increasing number of workers choosing the independent path, drawn by multiple factors ranging from economic imperatives to technological advances. As illustrated in the MBO Partners 2023 State of Independence Report, now in its 13th year, the change is palpable and multifaceted. The latest data offers a fascinating deep dive into this phenomenon, revealing a workforce both motivated by autonomy and empowered by technology.
An impressive 72.1 million Americans have chosen the independent route, even as the nation registers a record-breaking 156.3 million payroll jobs. One of the fastest growing segments of independents over the 13-year course of this study has been independents who report earning $100,000 or more in the prior year. After declining in 2020 due to the pandemic, the number of $100k+ independents increased by 53% from 2021 to 2023.
There are three key factors driving the growth of the independent workforce:
Its a Gold Rush. Independent workers are the hot ticket in todays labor market. Labor shortages mean companies are innovating faster than ever. Hiring platforms and advanced collaboration technologies are making it less cumbersome for businesses to identify, employ, and coordinate with independent workers. This tech-driven approach provides a timely answer to the pressing challenge of filling specialized roles, especially in high-demand sectors such as technology. In fact, according to MBOs August 2022 Contingent Labor Imperative study, which surveyed HR leaders from 600 organizations, the average company reveals that contingent labor now comprises 28% of their workforce. This percentage is forecasted to jump to 38% by 2027.
Tapping the Reservoir. Drawn to flexibility and autonomy the supply of independent workers is growing. More than ever, workers, particularly the younger demographic, are prioritizing flexibility. But there's more to it. The allure of "being your own boss" is compelling. In 2023, 80% of independent workers expressed a lifelong desire for this autonomy, compared to 61% of traditional workers. An insightful 71% of independents dislike reporting to a superior, a sentiment shared by only 49% of their traditional counterparts. And it's not just about sentiment; tangible shifts in the market are apparent. There's been a 130% growth in Occasional Independents since 2020, totaling 36.6 million in 2023. These individuals are capitalizing on digital platforms, freelancing, and side gigs to supplement their income or pursue passions. Full-Time Independents aren't far behind, witnessing a 20% surge in 2023, with numbers soaring to 26 milliona remarkable 73% growth since 2019.
Techs got their back. The tech ecosystem is both a catalyst and support system. Remote working capabilities and talent platforms have not only democratized access to work but also made it lucrative. In 2023, 24% of independents said online talent marketplaces were a top three method of finding work and 40% of independents who provide services to businesses said they had used an online talent platform to find work in the past 12 months, and 47% said they planned to do so in the next 12 months.
Increasingly, these platforms are becoming another sales channel for many independent workers who sell services. The average user uses 3.2 platforms, and 34% of those using platforms say it is their primary source of work.
Additionally, while AI is new to the independent scene, few independents (8%) see it as a threat. Of those using AI and ChatGPT, most (85%) find it at least somewhat useful (34%), with 26% finding it extremely useful to grow their career.
As these numbers and insights indicate, the independent workforce's growth isn't just a statistical uptick. It represents a profound transformation in the workforce psyche and the broader landscape of work in the 21st century.
For more insights and detailed data, visit https://www.mbopartners.com/state-of-independence/
About MBO Partners
MBO Partners is a deep job platform that connects and enables independent professionals and microbusiness owners to do business safely and effectively with enterprise organizations. Its unmatched experience and industry leadership enable it to operate on the forefront of the independent economy and consistently advance the next way of working. For more information, visit mbopartners.com
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