The so-called “gig economy” has changed the way Americans work. According to a research from the Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., which compiled Census and Bureau of Economic Analysis data, the number of workers actually classified as employees has continued to decline, while the number of employees classified as miscellaneous proprietors has been the rise.
A recent story for CIO highlighted the fact that IT pros are increasingly taking advantage of the flexibility, freedom and even potential for better pay that the gig economy offers.
Moreover, a Fast Company story further reported that the number of 1099-MISC forms received by the IRS continues to grow. Approximately 82 million 1099 forms, the ones that employers are required to file to hire and pay a freelance worker, were filed with the IRS in 2010. That number grew in 2014 to an estimated 91 million – while the rate of 1099 forms filed have increased faster than the growth of W2s, reinforcing the notion of this gig economy.
The freelance workplace could be not only be the future for many, but it could mean good news for those freelancers who seek employment – whether it be for short term jobs or semi-long term positions that still offer the overall freedom and flexibility that comes from being an independent.
Nearly one-third of the American workforce are now independent contractors or freelancers. The government sector is adapting to the times, if albeit somewhat slowly. This is even starting to change in the defense sector, where those with finely tuned skills and security clearance remain sought after.
The Jobs Are There
Freelance job opportunities are indeed out there. Those with clearance may find it easier to move to similar positions that demand the same level of clearance, and within the same agency, since one of the keys to hiring freelance workers is ensuring they’re able to get to work immediately – without waiting for a new investigation or reciprociy.
“Once you’re in a job there are provisions for transferring to other positions with similar security requirements,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. “But if you want to step up to a higher level position, you have to go through additional clearance procedures.”
Where there is work there is a way, however.
“There are contractors who employ cleared workers for specific tasks or short term positions,” added King. “This might be an option for freelancers looking for temporary work.”
However, even this lateral move isn’t without issues.
“It is very hard to move from contractor to contractor – working for different IC elements – when your clearances are held by one agency and that agency must both ‘pass’ your clearances and have them ‘accepted’ by another agency,” said Christopher Kojm, former chairman of the National Intelligence Council and visiting professor at the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University.
Fixing the System
While the jobs are there the process of jumping from gig to gig could still be a slow one. This is why experts have called for a system wide reform that would make it easier for those with the skills and clearance to fill the jobs that so desperately need to be filled.
In September of this year, Kojm laid out his concerns in a Wall Street Journal editorial, where he suggested the need for an employee-centered system and noted that “security isn’t just about catching spies,” and that by reforming the system would create “a more capable workforce.”
Kojm was also one of several panelists who spoke at a December 7, 2015 conference at the Woodrow Wilson Center, which noted that under the current federal system individuals with critical language skills, cultural acumen, and strong ties to sensitive regions could be frozen out of the work place – yet the same system failed to counter the insider threat posed by leakers such as Edward Snowden.
This is not a new issue either. Congressional members and independent investigations have been calling for reforms to the security clearance process for years, and all attempts at reform have been met with the constant battle between the need to move personnel into positions quickly – an advantage for the gig worker – and the need to maintain high investigative standards. Changes may come slowly.
“The 9-11 Commission Report critiqued the defense and intelligence industry for its silos and bureaucratic barriers between agencies,” said Plaster. “Leaders throughout the defense industry have worked to address this issue for some time in order to bring agility and collaboration to the government.”