U.S. workers, whether they be full-time or part-time employeesor gig workers, deserve a better benefit structure, a new reportsays — particularly since the very nature of work is undergoing tremendous change.

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That’s according to a report on Ozy, which points out that whileprotections under the Fair Labor Standards Act and benefits such ashealth care and retirement accounts are tied to conventionaljobs—W-2 jobs—the gig economy, growing by leaps and bounds,provides none of these.

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Even part-time workers have some protections under the FLSA, thepiece points out, while entrepreneurs and gig workers have nounderpinnings of any kind to protect them.

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The author writes of a previous report on the gig economy, inwhich she found that it “felt like the tale of two economies—onewhere flexibility, autonomy and diverse sources of income setworkers free; and another where income instability, uncertainty anda lack of benefits generate a lot of stress.”

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But as work changes, workers move (or are pushed) away from anemployee-status job; although W-2 jobs that come with benefits are anoutgrowth of World War II—they were a means of attracting workersprice controls restricted other methods—they provide the stabilitythat workers need, including the risk-takers who might go on tolaunch new businesses or invent new products.

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The full-time W-2 job is (or was) a prize indeed, bringingemployees more benefits from U.S. labor policies than any otherclass of worker, the report says: “They get unemployment insurance,workers’ compensation and legal protections under the FLSA, as wellas benefits like health care.”

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Part-timers generally get minimum wage and some legalprotections, but no benefits or unemployment insurance, while theself-employed—independent contractors who file a 1099—getnothing.

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The article cites Diane Mulcahy, author of The GigEconomy, as pointing out that “[e]ssentially, the U.S. labormarket structure penalizes anyone who’s not an employee in afull-time job.” Mulcahy is quoted saying, “For a country that is soenamored with the entrepreneur, we have a perverse way ofsupporting that.”

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And in the wake of the 2008 recession, the jobs that came backwere more 1099 than W-2, meaning that all this “fantastic” jobgrowth we’ve been experiencing hasn’t really been all thatfantastic at all.

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“So why,” the author asks, “are we still tying benefits andprotections to employee status when the whole notion of jobsecurity is changing?”

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For starters, the report suggests that all workers should becovered by the FLSA, which comes with worker’s compensation,unemployment insurance and the shield of law against discriminationand sexual harassment. “The idea that you need to work a certainamount of hours for one company to earn those rights is ludicrous,”the author asserts.

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Another blatantly unfair policy is the requirement that theself-employed must foot the entire bill for Social Security andMedicare. Ben Zipperer, an economist at the Economic PolicyInstitute, is quoted as saying of the policy, “That raises expensesin a way we often overlook.”

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And then there’s health care. Roy Bahat, head of Bloomberg Beta,a venture capital firm that invests in the future of work, says inthe report that every worker focus group they met with had the sametop answer when asked what the government could do for them: “Payfor my health care.” Bahat is quoted saying, “Truck drivers in Ohiowere actually saying things like, ‘If Canada does it, why can’twe?’”

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Bahat also points out that an underpinning of benefits couldspur innovation in the workplace.

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“Workers crave stability,” Bahat says in the report, adding,“It’s the platform that risk-taking comes from. We tout the gigeconomy as freedom, and yet, paradoxically, people tend to takerisks when they feel safe enough to take them.”

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