Atlantic Cities has an interesting piece about the rise of the freelance economy. The Geography of America's Freelance Economy.
... Slightly more than 10 million American workers, or seven percent of the workforce, are self-employed, according to estimates compiled by Rob Sentz and his colleagues at Economic Modeling Specialists (EMSI, for short). EMSI's figures are based on data from the United States Census (American Community Survey and Non-employer Statistics). More than four million (43 percent) of those self-employed workers are members of the creative class of scientists and technologists, knowledge workers and professionals, artists, designers, entertainers, and media workers.
... It's high time we temper the the mythology of freelance work with a dose of reality. While the popular image of self-employment is technology or knowledge working free-agents, the reality is that the ranks of the self-employed are populated by a mix of high-skill knowledge work and low-skill, much lower wage service work. Not only do they often earn less money, self-employed Americans lack the basic protections and security that workers and a middle-class society require.
Given the flexibility that has come along with the knowledge and service-based economy and the preference many Americans have for doing their own thing, it will be next to impossible to go back to the old system of long-term employment tenure in "real jobs" of the past. The number of full-employed independent workers is projected to swell to 30 million in the next decade and the total number of freelancers could reach as many as 70 million when as much as half of the workforce could be involved in some sort of freelance work. What's more, 57 percent of freelancers chose to go independent in 2012, as Johnson reports, and only 13 percent say they want to go back to traditional employment.
What's needed is nothing less than a new social compact which reflects the new realities of work. ...
Then Ross Douthart, writing in the New York Times, has this piece: A World Without Work
If such a utopia were possible, one might expect that it would be achieved first among the upper classes, and then gradually spread down the social ladder. First the wealthy would work shorter hours, then the middle class, and finally even high school dropouts would be able to sleep late and take four-day weekends and choose their own adventures — “to hunt in the morning,” as Karl Marx once prophesied, “fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner ...”
Yet the decline of work isn’t actually some wild Marxist scenario. It’s a basic reality of 21st-century American life, one that predates the financial crash and promises to continue apace even as normal economic growth returns. This decline isn’t unemployment in the usual sense, where people look for work and can’t find it. It’s a kind of post-employment, in which people drop out of the work force and find ways to live, more or less permanently, without a steady job. So instead of spreading from the top down, leisure time — wanted or unwanted — is expanding from the bottom up. Long hours are increasingly the province of the rich. ...
Whether or not either of these stories has things framed just right, I do think we are in the midst of a major upheavel in what work and employment look like. I remember reading once that Americans made or grew more than 80% of everything they consumed in 1885. By 1915 is was less than 20%. I suspect this last decade is the leadning edge of changes that may be just as profound, and just as hard to anticipate, as those on the horizon in 1885.