National study shows surge in independent employment among boomers

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A growing number of baby boomers are leaving the work force to become independent workers, and the reason behind the change isn’t necessarily the economy. So says the Boomer Report, a new subset of the Independent Workforce Index, a report done by Herndon-based MBO Partners.

The company says the report shines a light for the first time on a pioneering, self-satisfied and growing pool of independent workers, who today account for one-third (5 million) of America’s career independents.

“In the face of recent financial uncertainty and a tumultuous job market, many in the Boomer generation have turned adversity into opportunity and taken charge of their lives by working independently,” Gene Zaino, CEO of MBO Partners, said in a statement.  “Our newly released report shows that eight million boomers are considering independent work.  We project that within the next two years we will see the boomer independent workforce grow by 1.2 million.” 

According to the report, several key factors are driving this trend, dispelling a common perception that boomer independent workers are a byproduct of job loss during the Great Recession.  Most boomers (59 percent) actively chose the path to independence and expect to continue in it for a long time.  The vast majority of boomers who participated in the study plan to work as independent contractors over the next three years and only 8 percent expect to seek a traditional job.

Some of the benefits cited by boomers include:
• Freedom and flexibility: 79 percent of boomers site the freedom independent work offers as a key benefit. 
• Being the boss: 61 percent enjoy the benefits of making their own way, on their own terms with 60 percent responding they like being their own boss.
• Making an impact: 56 percent feel they have the knowledge base and skill set to make an impact in their field.  66 percent are college educated, and the median annual income is $77,000.

Independent work, however, is not without its challenges; 55 percent of boomers are concerned about not having a consistent revenue stream and 37% worry about getting their next job.

In the study, independent workers were defined as people who work at least 15+ hours per week in non-traditional, non-permanent, full or part-time employment and includes workers who identify themselves as consultants, freelancers, contractors, self-employed, and on-call workers. Emergent Research and Rockbridge Associates conducted two separate online surveys by in July of 2011. 1144 U.S. residents responded to the first survey, and 601 independent workers responded to the second survey.  In addition, MBO conducted interviews with boomer independent workers. 

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