I’m traveling to Silicon Valley this week to talk with high-tech industry leaders, workers, venture capitalists, labor leaders and community leaders about the future of work in America. I’ll be talking to people about having a voice at work, whether the workplace is virtual, traditional or somewhere in between. I’ll be talking to companies about their paid leave policies. And I’ll be talking to workers, public officials, workforce development experts and companies about the role apprenticeship can play in training a first-class workforce and helping people launch middle-class careers.
Silicon Valley is a huge economic driver, and the innovation happening there is creating both opportunities and challenges. We see it not just in new technologies and business models, but in creative approaches to worker advocacy. A few weeks ago, President Obama charged us in the State of the Union to think about how to foster innovation and growth, to rekindle the spirit of creativity in the private sector that has defined our nation’s success throughout our history – and to do so in a way that builds an economy that works for everyone.
I believe we have a responsibility to ask: How do we create inclusive innovation and opportunities for everyone, building off the creativity and entrepreneurship that you find woven into the DNA of Silicon Valley?
Thanks in large measure to innovation in recent decades there, the American workforce – and the very nature of work – is experiencing some profound changes. It’s not just the growth of new technologies, but also the rise of entirely new industries and new job structures. For example, we’re seeing the tech-driven expansion of the gig or on-demand economy.
This is an exciting, entrepreneurial development that is tapping into powerful consumer demand while giving workers flexibility and enabling them to monetize existing assets, like their cars or extra rooms in their homes. At the same time, the on-demand economy raises important questions about how to continue upholding time-honored labor standards and how to promote economic security for American workers in a changing labor market.
It’s important that my team and I understand these trends so we can make good decisions going forward. We can only do that if we’re hearing the experiences of people on the leading edge of all this dynamic activity, so I’m looking forward to all of the conversations I’ll be having out there this week.
Also, understanding emerging trends is only possible if we can systematically measure them, something that’s never far from our minds at the Labor Department. And the need for more data was a common refrain at our Future of Work symposium last month, where we hosted a special session with leading academics, economists and statistical agency experts on exactly that topic.
That’s why I’m excited to announce that our Bureau of Labor Statistics is working with the Census Bureau to rerun the Contingent Worker Supplement to the Current Population Survey. It will give us reliable, credible insight into what’s going on across a range of work arrangements – from independent contractors to temporary employees to workers holding multiple jobs at the same time.
They’ll be gathering this information as part of the May 2017 Current Population Survey, and the information we get from this survey will help the department do something that’s essential to smart policymaking and smart business: understanding the past and the present so that we can prepare for the future.