Why are there so many C-words in the future of work?

Why are there so many C-words in the future of work?

Navigating the future of work, means navigating new types of work - whether it be freelancing in the gig economy, or working as a consultant or contingency talent for multiple organisations - the traditional 9-5 job is no longer the norm.

But knowing what these terms mean and how they reflect the current state of the workforce is equally important.

So here is a quick explainer of the new terms of work, and why you need to know them:

Contingency talent describes an emerging group in the workforce who are engaged by businesses and organisations on a non-permanent and irregular basis. They can be temporary workers and freelancers. In some cases, if a business uses an agency to find contingency talent, the business may be presented with the same contingency talent previously had on the books.

Contracting is a more traditional term, as trades have used this model for decades to manage medium-term employment. In Australia however, data from the Australian Bureau for Statistics shows that contract work has begun spreading to scientific and professional industries, particularly for female workers. As recently as 2016, nearly 1 in 10 Australian workers were in this category, with 32% not expecting to be with current employer/business in 12 months time.

Consultants are a form of shorter-term engagement that generally skews towards assessing practice and giving advice. A consultant can also fit into a number of other categories. One can be brought in and out of a company on a contingent basis to specifically advise on strategy. In other cases, a consultant can be employed on a fixed-term contract with a specific start and end date, or one might only be engaged for a day or so.

The Gig Economy provides a level of flexibility and personal control that can be a positive for many workers, and it’s a growing industry in Australia. Unions NSW reported that in September 2016 there were already 45,000 gig economy workers in the state, with one well known provider, Airtasker, having 550,000 users across Australia employing these workers. Concerns have been raised that even with the inherent flexibility of the gig economy, gig workers are missing out on traditional entitlements such as superannuation or paid leave, placing them in position of insecurity.

Underlying the need for such terms to describe a more fluid workforce is the connected phenomenon of underemployment. This refers to workers who want to work more, but can’t find enough employment at a full-time equivalent level. In Australia in early 2017, this segment of the population was at 8.8%, the highest level since records began in the 1970s.

So why do you need to know these new types of work?

The increase in numbers of underemployed Australians is impacting workers at all levels. Underemployment forces individuals to embrace a range of short-term employment options to overcome their lack of income. This it isn’t restricted to just service industry jobs; changes in types of work can be found in professional industries as well. In 2014, 60% of academics working in Universities across Australia were employed only on a casual basis, despite the industry having a disproportionately high number of PhD-holding employees.

For young workers aged 16-24, the figures are equally concerning. A report by the Brotherhood of St Lawrence in March 2017 stated that the youth under-utilisation rate (which combines unemployed and underemployment rates) now sits at 31.5%, higher than the rate (27%) during the 2007 Global Financial Crisis.

The shift in the workforce from the linear 9-5 full-time job to a more dynamic workforce isn’t going anywhere, and whether you are in the middle of your working life or just starting out, you need to know about these changes.

FYA’s New Work Order report series provides a road map for understanding how and why work is changing, and the skills we need to survive in this new world of work. The research shows that while technical skills for specific jobs are still necessary, employers are increasingly demanding enterprise skills such as digital literacy, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, communication and more, which are transferable across all jobs and industries. Rather than focusing on the inflexible and outdated idea of one dream job or career, the series promotes pursuing a dream cluster of skills, usable across many careers and jobs.

Similarly, the Future Literacies Framework developed with the Future-U.org community also helps workers to step back far enough to appreciate the common ‘meta-skills’ that can set young people up for success no matter what the ultimate impact of automation and AI on employment is.

For more on the future of work read How Automation is changing what our work week looks like