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Sen. Warner Drills Down on Digital, On-Demand Jobs

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) has asked the secretaries of Treasury, Commerce and Labor (and the head of the Census Bureau) to see of they can come up with better ways to gauge the size, scope and growth of the on-demand economy powered by broadband-connected devices and GPS technology.

Warner, a former wireless company entrepreneur, points out that millions are participating in that economy thanks to "the growth of new digital platforms that make it much easier for more people to connect," to that economy by monetizing their time, talents, tools, skills cars and spare rooms.

In a letter to the officials (opens in new tab),Warner says better and more relevant data could provide better insight into how work is evolving in a digital economy. "20th century surveys & definitions don’t track growth in 21st century economy," his office said in circulating a copy of the letter.

The senator has spent the past year or so studying the on-demand economy, including how to come up with a safety net system for the  'net-driven on-demand 'contingent' workforce, like unemployment, health, injury and disability insurance and retirement savings.

Contingent jobs include self-employed, multiple jobs, part-timers, retired moonlighters and on-call workers. GAO estimates those workers to be anywhere from a low end of eight million to a high of 47 million.

“We know that millions of Americans are eagerly participating in this dynamic new economy, but we don’t have good information on the extent of that participation or the possible policy ramifications,” Warner said in a statement on the letters. “Hundreds of thousands of people are driving for Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing platforms. Freelancers, independent contractors, and others are using platforms like Handy and TaskRabbit to more easily connect with additional work opportunities. Artists and collectors are making great use of platforms like Etsy to connect buyers and sellers of art, crafts and vintage items. And many Americans occasionally monetize their spare rooms, apartments, and houses on Airbnb and other sites that facilitate short-term rentals.”  

Warner would like a response from the officials within 30 days.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.