New York City creates hub for booming freelance industry

World Today

There are roughly 57 million freelance workers in the United States, according to independent research data. New York is taking steps to recognize the importance of these workers, who bring in an estimated $1.4 trillion a year to the economy.

CGTN’s Nick Harper filed this report from New York.

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Nonye Ojibe works three regular freelance jobs, doing music reviews, blogging and website management. She moved to New York seven months ago to become a full-time freelancer.

“Up here, it’s like every other person you meet is doing something of their own on the side – if it’s not full time, it’s part-time,” she said.

Ojibe likes being able to manage her time, but said there’s one big drawback.

“The salary, I guess, because you don’t know when the next paycheck is coming, you don’t know how long or how hard you’re going to have to work for it or what exactly you’ve going to have to do,” she explained.

It’s estimated almost two in every five workers in New York City are freelancers. The city has already created laws to help them get paid on time, but now it’s going a step further in acknowledging the city’s growing, so-called ‘gig economy’.

That’s where the Freelancer Hub, a dedicated space for freelancers, comes into play.

“New York City really runs on freelancer labor, they’re the backbone of the economy here,” Kaitlin Pearce, Executive Director of the Freelancers’ Union said.

“It’s really ground-breaking for us to be opening up this program in partnership with the city that really recognizes that there are a lot of unmet needs among independent workers.”

The hub offers a place for creative freelancers to meet, share ideas, attend training, and gives them a rent-free place to work.

Meanwhile, economists said freelancers are in a financially precarious position.

“It’s clear in many cases that folks are actually working for less than minimum wage,” Max Wolff, Chief Economist for the Phoenix Group said. 

“If you reclassify people from employers to contractors, or pay them for task completion instead of by the hour, then you’ve actually undermined minimum wage.”

Ojibe has no plans to take up a full-time job just yet. However, she recognizes the unpredictability may eventually outweigh the flexibility.