Are freelancers really the new employed?
This slogan appeared on the wall at the recent Campus Party conference in Berlin, along with other wishfully-witty comparisons between old and new norms.
The simplicity of the statement captures what is so worrying about the dramatic increase in the freelance workforce, unaccompanied as it is by any security or protections for the freelancers themselves.
What’s wrong with this picture?
It is true that freelancers are beginning to replace employees as the workforce of choice for a lot of companies. But for freelancers the switch isn’t a fair and equal transition.
Freelancers don’t enjoy the same benefits and protections as employees. They have no job security, can be easily exploited, must pay for their own overpriced health care, are penalized by tax and social security authorities, and are unsure when their invoices will be paid, if ever.
This slogan is clearly written from the perspective of employers, who certainly wish that all employees could magically become freelancers in an instant: it would save them money, allow them to fire workers easily, and reduce any of those pesky obligations to pay on time, pay for sick days, pay for work preparation, and pay parental benefits, should a staff member regretfully fall pregnant.
But for the freelancer, the slogan needs a lot of amendment. Here’s how it would look, if written by a freelancer:
Freelance is the new employed, without security, benefits, health care, commitment, bargaining power, tax & social security provisions
Freelance will be the new employed, once all worker protections are extended to independent workers
The rise of the freelancer could be a fantastic opportunity for individuals to liberate themselves from thankless corporate hierarchies, to pursue their passions on their own terms, and to regain a work-life balance. But this utopian promise only tells half the story. Without a form of collective representation, freelancers stand to be isolated, atomized and exploited.
How would you alter this slogan to reflect your reality? Send, post and tweet your ideas!