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What if, as some experts predict, half of American workers were engaged on a contingent basis? How would the needs of our country, cities, and states change if a significant amount of people worked from home or outside the traditional 9-5 schedule?

Those are some of the questions Thomas Fisher, Dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, tackles in his article “The Contingent Workforce and Public Decision Making” in the Public Sector Digest.

Staffing Industry Analysts Senior Vice President Dana Shaw states in the article that 50% of workers in the Fortune 100 will be contingent by 2020.  This trend is being driven by a number of factors, most notably companies’ need to contain costs in the face of global competition and workers’ ability to work from home in the age of the Internet.

If this prediction pans out, Fisher points out that workers will need different things from the public sector than they currently do.  He said that some public sector costs will go down while other will go up. For instance, if people are working from home or traveling to work outside the traditional 9-5 schedule, highway capacity and public transportation may be less important, but they may need access to wide-bandwidth Internet or public gathering places. He suggests that zoning laws that separate business and residential areas may not make sense as work lives and private lives blend. He also mentions a possible need for a different K-12 education system that promotes creativity, independent thinking, and self-directed work rather than preparing students for industrial or bureaucratic work.

It should be interesting in the coming years how the increasing use of contingent workers forces everyone, from workers to recruiters to our leaders in the public sector, to adapt.  We will be keeping a close eye on these trends and how they affect both direct hire and contract staffing recruiters.

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