Review of Keynesian Economics

Workers without employers: shadow corporations and the rise of the gig economy

Gerald Friedman * *

Keywords: business fluctuations, labor economics, labor policy, wage level and structure, compensation packages, payment methods, mobility, unemployment, turnover, vacancies, lay-offs, unemployment insurance


A growing number of American workers are no longer employed in ‘jobs’ with a long-term connection with a company but are hired for ‘gigs’ under ‘flexible’ arrangements as ‘independent contractors’ or ‘consultants,’ working only to complete a particular task or for defined time and with no more connection with their employer than there might be between a consumer and a particular brand of soap or potato chips. While the rise of this ‘gig’ economy is praised by some as a response to the wishes of a more entrepreneurial generation, it is more likely that it is driven by the concerns of businesses to lower wages and benefit costs during business down-turns while also reducing their vulnerability to unfair dismissal lawsuits. The rise of gig labor calls for new initiatives in social policy because it shifts more of the burden of economic risk onto workers even while removing gig workers from many of the employment-bound New-Deal-era social insurance programs.

Author Notes

I am grateful to Richard Greenwald, Rosa Friedman, and Debra Jacobson. Natasha Friedman's life experiences (and dog-walking and cat-sitting) helped provide inspiration. The author can be reached at

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