No longer just a trendy observation, the “gig economy” is now a reality. A recent study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), commissioned in concert with the Freelancers Union, finds,

“The sector of workers who don’t have traditional full-time jobs—whether by choice or not—is a sizable and growing portion of the workforce. Overall, the share of earners with alternative work arrangements increased to 40.4% of the workforce in 2010, up from 35.3% in 2006.”

The data, however, is outdated and scarce. As a result, policy has not evolved to serve the present labor force. Our founder, Sara Horowitz notes in Fast Company, “It’s impossible for leaders to make policy—or even for workers to ask for changes in policy—if we don’t have the data to show us the size and shape of the problem.”

The contingent force is one segment that needs protections now. Contingent workers make at least 10% less per hour than traditional workers and are less likely to participate in employer-related retirement programs, which can leave them—and our nation—economically vulnerable down the road.

Still, there are many self-actualized independent workers: 86% of whom report job satisfaction, signaling this new mode of labor can be beneficial for both employers and employees. But, the GAO study ultimately reveals that “the freelance movement is happening in relative statistical and policy-making darkness,” and, given the scale of the movement, Sara Horowitz concludes “Changing that should be a national priority.”

**Want to read more? Check out the full piece over at Fast Company. **