The U.S. freelance workforce now boasts 64.6 million participants—up from 59 million in 2021. That’s a 26% increase from 2021 and a 69% increase from 2020.

MBO Partners, a technology solutions and personal service company that simplifies and expedites business processes for self-employed professionals, released its 12th annual State of Independence report showing this substantial growth in independent workers. 

The report also found the number of full-time independents increased to 21.6 million individuals from 15.3 million in 2021—a 27% increase. 

Approximately 164.5 million Americans comprise the workforce. That means about 39% of the U.S. workforce engages in full-time, part-time, or occasional freelance work—up from about 36%. Half of them are women.

The report adds the COVID pandemic and changing nature of work propelled the rise of the independent workforce as “more people [are] actively seeking better work/life balance, shorter commutes, greater flexibility, and the ability to pursue their passions.”

MBO Partners calls this phenomenon the Great Realization–born Afrom the Great Resignation and Great Reshuffle. They argue this trend is “dual-sized.” Employers recognize independent workers are integral to maintaining a competitive workforce, while freelance workers are in greater control over their work. 

By 2028, half of the U.S. workforce—86.5 million workers—will freelance in some capacity—a trend worth celebrating. However, proposed rulemaking from the Biden administration would encourage this burgeoning workforce from growth. 

IWF Center for Economic Opportunity Director Patrice Onwuka warned about the Department of Labor proposing a rule to make independent work untenable for most workers: 

The Biden Department of Labor has placed flexible, independent work that women value and depend upon in their crosshairs. They want to make it more difficult for the nation’s 60 million freelancers to engage in their preferred work arrangements. In response to the COVID pandemic, women now comprise over half of new freelancers. The number one reason women engage in independent contracting is the flexibility to set their own schedules and work around important priorities. Many are only working part-time or less and don’t want employee benefits. They’d rather have more money and be their own boss. With 40-year high inflation, American households need more opportunities, not fewer.

With more Americans opting for freelance work arrangements, policymaking should reflect this trend—discourage it.

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