Is the status of independent the future of work? According to an Intuit study, no less than 40% of the workforce in the United States will be made up of independent workers this year. This level has never been reached before.
It is a trend that Canada has not completely missed. Here as well, the status of independent worker, a person who works on their own and without the help of employees, is steadily increasing. The phenomenon has grown significantly since the 1970s, but nothing like the American model. According to Statistics Canada, self-employed workers represented 15% of total employment in 2018.
Martine D’Amours, director of the postgraduate program in the industrial relations department of Université Laval, looked into this subject. More than just the numbers, the specialist first analyzed working conditions. She highlights the beginning of a paradigm shift in organization of work through a salient fact: the increasing number of atypical statuses.
Contract workers, consultants, self-employed workers, freelancers, remote workers… Non-traditional workers are multiplying in every sector of the labour market. “Behind the statistics, you have to look at the type of job. We are witnessing job insecurity with, for example, the appearance of so-called independent jobs linked to online platforms, but which are in reality tightly controlled and even evaluated. Can we still talk about independence?”, asks the professor.
Interpersonal and versatile
Another notable fact on the Canadian labour market is the versatility of the new active generation (Generation Y) which does not intend to take pleasure in a traditional conception of work. “Independent workers, thanks to this freedom of work that they appreciate, can combine several activities and schedules in order to reconcile work and family,” explains Martine D’Amours. Flexibility, adaptation, availability, responsiveness… These profiles also seem to be perfectly matched to employers’ (or buyers’) expectations for the next decade. This is no secret – according to a study by the Randstad human resources firm, “close to half of Canadian companies are preparing to organize around a variable workforce over the next five years.” These same bosses also believe that they can reduce their labour costs by turning to independent workers.
In some Canadian professional sectors, such as information technologies, independent workers, sometimes called the “agile workforce”, now represent almost 20% of employees. The situation could become widespread, according to Randstad’s study: “At least a quarter of the workforce will work remotely or in virtual offices by 2025.”