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Watch the on-demand economy grow

August 17, 2015

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Intuit, the producer of business-management software, is predicting that the U.S. population of on-demand employees will more than double by 2020.

What are on-demand employees? Forbes says they’re people who work for Uber, as contractors, as part-timers, and in other jobs where they’re not on staff, but perform work for a company. The number also includes self-employed people.

Some experts have referred to this as the “1099 economy,” referring to the federal tax form that employers must file for these workers.

The current population of on-demand employees is about 3.2 million, but should hit 7.6 million by 2020, according to the Intuit survey.

It drew data from a number of different job-tracking platforms. In 1989, only six percent of the workforce could be counted as on-demand employees, but by 2020, it could be 40 percent of the workforce, Alex Chriss, vice president and general manager of Self-Employed Solutions at Intuit, told Forbes.

And, he believes that the number eventually could be as high as 50 percent.

Chriss says economists are having some trouble figuring out how to track these employees.

“A lot of classification debates are black or white: Should they be an employee or an independent contractor,” Chriss said.  ”We keep trying to fit these folks into our traditional buckets. I don’t think they fit into those anymore.”

One interesting piece of data: in 1980, people who worked as contractors were employed for an average of 8.5 weeks. Today, it is 28 weeks, leading to the expression “perma-temps.”

For story ideas, check with your state or local officials to see how they track on-demand employees. Look at federal statistics on the number of people employed full-time and self-employed in your state. Talk to some on-demand employees to see how they’re managing their incomes and the challenges of working for themselves.


  • Micheline Maynard

    Micheline is a contributing columnist at the Washington Post concentrating on business and culture. She has written about flooding in Detroit, tainted water in Benton Harbor, nationwide shortages of restaurant staff, and vaccine hesitancy.

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