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Voices from the Field: Can Co-ops Displace the Gig Economy?

The future of jobs, work, and workplaces is facing rampant transformation. One of the most visible changes has been the rising number of contract workers, who, according to the Freelancers’ Union, number 57.3 million people in the US. That’s 36 percent of all workers! If current trends continue, by 2027, contract workers will outnumber wage workers nationally.

These 57 million freelancers benefit from some aspects of on-demand arrangements, such as flexible schedules. But the negative consequences of the gig economy often overshadow the positives. Contract workers face fewer protections, low pay, lack of job security, and no benefits. For example, the Freelancers’ Union notes that 63 percent of contract workers have to dip into their savings at least once a month, compared to 20 percent of wage workers.

Amid this upheaval, platform cooperatives are emerging as a new type of enterprise. These startups build on the positive heritage of more than 100 years of cooperatives, with a deeply human-centered ethos, and leverage platform technology for scale and sustainability. Stakeholders—users, employees, and other members—govern the company and share in the success.

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