As I work on my book, Thriving in the Gig Economy , I have had the opportunity to talk to many experts, from CEOs to futurists about the future of work. I was thrilled last week when one of them shared my pet peeve, one that is all the more acute in an election year -- the fact that so many Americans equate work and jobs. Work is so much more than a job, or more precisely a "regular full-time job". work encompasses all sorts of pursuits, from part-time work, to self-employment to gigs to volunteering.
If you look at the definition, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/work, it is "an activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something:" In fact in all 11 definitions cited, the word "employment" never appears.
None the less, we constantly hear our politicians talking about how important it is to create jobs.Yes that is important, but as the world is changing with technology and new work models. What is unfortunate about this focus on jobs and not work is the attachment of social infrastructure to employment. Employer provided health and retirement benefits are great for current employees, but leave all of the other workers, from part-timers to gig workers potentially at a disadvantage. Moreover, the employment oriented fringes may constrain an individual's entrepreneurial path; it will be tougher to become an independent consultant if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.
That said, the government has a vested interest in bolstering traditional employment structures, and that interest is not in benefits but in taxes. It is a lot easier to collect employment taxes from companies than from a myriad of individuals. As such, the argument that we need to revise our vision of employment, can fall on deaf ears.
Charles Handy, an Irish economist and expert in the world of work, said in his new book, The Second Curve, writes, “The strange truth is, if you have a so-called proper full-time job today, you are in the minority. The world has changed and few have noticed.” We need to take notice and enable opportunity accordingly.