Workplace Culture

Majority of Workers to Be Independent By 2020

By Staffing report

Dec. 20, 2011

More than half of the U.S. workforce, 70 million people, will be independent workers by 2020, according to a prediction that is part of MBO Partners’ 2012 independent work preview. An earlier report by MBO Partners found that there are currently 16 million independent workers in the United States today.

Independent workers include those on fixed-term contracts, independent consultants, those working through temporary agencies, workers on an on-call arrangement and those who own a business with less than five employees.

MBO Partners also announced four other trend predictions for the coming year:

A growing demand for experts and seasoned skilled workers. The future workforce will largely be made up of experts and seasoned skilled workers, including a greater number of mature workers (those aged 55 and older) starting independent careers based on acquired expertise.

Independence is fueled as new social communities and collaborative technologies continue to rise. Due to the growing adoption of collaborative cloud computing tools and social networks, professionals are tapping into these specialized networks to locate expert talent. The proliferation of these work-related social communities allows independents to find jobs, create project-based teams/partnerships and support professional development. Further, cloud-services and mobile devices eliminate the barriers imposed by physical location and geography, enabling the workforce to truly become location-independent.

The backlash: increased regulation and tighter enforcement. In 2011, seven misclassification laws were passed in six states in a surge in government regulations and class action lawsuits, according to MBO Partners. There are already 14 additional bills under review that could clear in early 2012.

Independent workers will require a “passport for independence.” A platform that enables independent workers to move from project to project and company to company with better, more robust systems, safety nets and the tools to support them as compliant, independent businesses. Such a custom infrastructure could include retirement and healthcare programs while installing the necessary protection to insulate their clients from misclassification risks.

MBO Partners provides business services to independent contractors as well as independent contractor payrolling and compliance services for staffing buyers.

Filed by Staffing Industry Analysts, a sister company of Workforce Management. To comment, email

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