Independent Workers: What Role for Public Policy

Independent workers are excluded from many important aspects of the social contract that protects traditional employees, such as anti-discrimination legislation and employer-provided health insurance. This lecture draws on evidence from a new survey of 1,321 self-employed workers to consider policies regarding benefits, taxes, training, discrimination, and contract enforcement. Among the most significant findings: 1) health insurance is typically listed as the most important benefit by self-employed workers; 2) nearly 20 percent of the self-employed obtain health insurance through or a state exchange; 3) nearly half of self-employed African American workers reported that they felt they had been discriminated against by customers or clients because of their race, compared with only 10.6 percent of Whites; and 4) 36 percent of self-employed workers reported an incident in the last year when they were not paid on time and 27 percent report an incident where they were not paid in full. The lecture proposes and evaluates public policies to extend key elements of the social contract to the self-employed to improve the efficiency and fairness of the job market.
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