The face of the American workforce is changing, and whether they’re solopreneurs, independent contractors, consultants, freelancers or temporary workers, the number of independent workers is growing, reports MBO Partners’ second annual State of Independence in America study.
Since 2011, MBO Partners found, the independent workforce has grown from 16 million to more than 16.9 million. Within the next five years, it’s expected to grow to 23 million.
What’s behind the growth of independent work? Although some of the independents surveyed were “nudged” into independence by the recession and difficulty finding a job, nearly three-fourths (71 percent) say they’re highly satisfied with the independent lifestyle, up from 60 percent last year.
Independents are also feeling more confident about being independent than they were last year. Overall, they expressed less worry about marketing their businesses and maintaining their independent status in the future. In fact, 39 percent said they feel more secure being independent than they did as employees, up 6 percent from 2011.
The study also looked at generational differences in independents and here’s what they found:
Gen Y (ages 21 to 32) faces difficult challenges entering the workforce and is most likely to be “torn” over being independent. While most of them are satisfied with being independent, they’re less likely than other generations to have willingly chosen it. About 40 percent of Gen Y chose independence, compared to 68 percent of Gen X and 58 percent of Boomers. While one-third of Gen Y say they love independent work and don’t plan on going back to a traditional job, one-third want traditional employment and one-third are undecided.
Gen X (age 33 to 49) professionals make up the bulk of independent workers, and overall, love being independent. Three-quarters are highly satisfied and 76 percent plan to continue as independents (64 percent) or build a bigger business (12 percent). Only 6 percent plan on seeking traditional employment. About two-thirds cited “do work that I love” as a reason for becoming independent.
Boomers (aged 50 to 66) Three-fourths of boomers, the most of any generation, chose independent work in order to control their schedules; 70 percent said greater flexibility was a reason for being independent. However, 54 percent said “office politics” was a reason for going independent and one-fourth had faced job loss before they went independent. A whopping 82 percent of Boomers plan on staying independent (71 percent) or building a bigger business (11 percent); just 8 percent plan on seeking traditional employment.
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