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We’re All Going to Be Freelancers

The long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will manifest themselves in a considerable amplification of the trend growing strong since the early 21st century – the increasing significance of the category of “freelancers” in the labour market or – speaking in broader terms – professional activity. These are individuals undertaking business activity not to have a ‘third-party’ boss and not to be a boss to others. In the most developed countries, such as the US or the UK, the share of “sole entrepreneurs” in the entire population of entrepreneurs is greater than 80%. A similar trend of increases in the number of freelancers can be also seen in Poland.

Remote work which regular employees have switched to, forced by the pandemic and adopted by large corporations and smaller companies alike on a broad scale, will contribute to a further growth of the population of freelancers in the new normal. Looks like some elements of remote work will remain after we combat the coronavirus, becoming incorporated into various sorts of hybrid solutions. The process will be supported by technological changes, the adaptation of labour market regulations to the new reality, or more flexible tax regulations. This will inspire entrepreneurial attitudes among the professionally active, if only to arrange for and set up a workstation on one’s own.

Providing one’s services to one employer remotely – meaning in a less controlled manner – will encourage the search for more potential recipients of one’s services. As a result, the differences between “entrepreneurs without employees” and “enterprising employees” will continue to blur, leading to the formation of a broad group of freelancers with an increasingly stronger position in the contemporary labour market. Such a model of professional activity is especially attractive to individuals with a higher education, engaged in modern professions and specialisations, including in the so-called creative sectors. Freelancing is also a more and more common choice among young people making their first steps into the labour market.

The manifestations of the new normal described above pose a number of challenges in the area of socio-economic policy, and call for corrective measures on the part of the various active labour market actors. For example: the model of education adopted by higher education institutions specialising in business aims at ‘equipping’ their graduates with the skills and tools necessary to manage teams. When it comes to the adaptation to the new normal, it’s time for curricula to take the needs of graduates who decide to become freelancers and look for knowledge and skills to succeed on this career path when they graduate into consideration.

The text is part of the publication "The New Normal. Reality in the times of the global Covid-19 pandemic. A commentary by the faculty of Kozminski University".