Freelance labor market in Poland
Economic transformation, digital modernization and their consequences for the process of work
At least since the publication of Daniel Bell’s The Coming of Post-Industrial Society  about socio-economic changes creating new type of society, the case of postindustriality is taken into account of quite often by many sociologist. No doubt, mentioned changes in production are facts. Factories are not statistically dominating workplaces for the most of citizens in developed countries. The specialization in the services sector even had grown to that point that it is reasonable to talk about creative services sector [Florida 2002]. Income of creative services is much higher than income of two other (productive and service) sectors since it make twice. As Richard Florida is pointing out labor market and workplace had changed more significantly in last time (between 1950’s and 2010’s or even 2000’s) than ever before (like between 1900’s and 1950’s) [ibidem]. From the 1960’s we could observe a shift in the development of new technologies and its reception in office (computers, mobile phones and the Internet or nowadays mobile Internet). Also a change of political correctness for employing racial/ethnic minorities, women and homosexual people. Going-away from the model ‘9 to 5 worktime’ and the case of work in home and other cases that we can call the flexibilization of work.
Freelancers are people who are not committed to any particular employer for long term, but cooperate with some of them depending on demand. Therefore I claim that they are an embodiment of changes not only in whole labor market but in whole economy and society. And studying their socio-economic situation is efficient way of researching society-economy nexus.
Although main concern in this dissertation will be Polish reality, it is necessary to compare Polish situation with Western Europe, which is introducing this matter for quite longer period of time and where segmentization of labor market and its institutionalization is more developed. Looking at the social background of work in such lines of business as ITC, copywriting and web-journalism or photography and research & development gives us the vision of contemporary segmentarization of Polish labor market and also of meeting the challenges of modern, 21st century’s economy.
Polish freelancers as a social category
What we can state in reference to the state of the research [Rapot z badania Freelancer w Polsce 2010”: on-line] is following. Most of Polish freelancers who were participating survey inquiry in 2009 (66,21%) have higher education and belongs to 26-40 age category (68,19%). Polish freelancers work in urban centers (63,24% declared it) and about 42% of them work in cities with more than half-million inhabitants. 71,4% of respondents are in this business from three years. Therefore we can say that it is a new and still growing segment of Polish labor market. More then a half of the sample (55,82%) declare a need of independency as a main factor for choosing this way of working. About an half of respondents (46,08%) represent IT or graphic design market branch [see ibidem].
Other research shown that for young IT leaders salary is not the most important factor (although is important) of choosing the job offer. 45% of young IT professionals claimed that their motivation came from non-material aspects, such as self-development in their passions/hobbies. Money has been chosen by 40% of respondents. Although if we look at the axio-normative system of this social category we have to state that for about half of them family (57%) and friends (45%) is the most important. Achieving goals (35%), personal development (32%), feeling of freedom (32%) and work life balance (30%) are important for about 2/3 of the sample. Financial aspects were highlighted by less then 1/6 of sample: richness (16%) and career (11%) [Pasje…, 2011].
Between the possibility and the necessity. Hypotheses or areas of interest
IDENTITY# AND INSTITUTIONS. First crucial case is the question if people who ‘work for their own’ identify with the label ‘freelancer’. What do they think/feel when it comes to talk about the vision of their social belonging to the group of freelancers? Do they have need to participate in any freelancers organizations? Do they want to defend their interests in organized formal groups?
NORMS AND VALUES. Central point in this section will be the answer to the question why they have choose this profession. What kind of values underlie this choice? Here most important things will be their choice between time and money. Do they have regular or irregular cash flow? Are they resigning from having regular income to have more leisure time for self-realization?
EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT. As far we live in so called knowledge society and as far postindustrial societies are the highest educated societies interesting point is to approach of freelancers to the question of usage formal education. Rapid changes in fields connected with technology are faster a lot than changes in academic curriculums. Therefore attaining professional up-dated knowledge is a comes from informal way of education, such as internet forums or private courses. What in this situation is done by freelancers, which are the people who has to refresh their knowledge to be competitive in the labor market. Consequently, freelancers can be seen as iconic individuals living in the knowledge society.
CHARACTER/PERSONALITY. In his bestseller book about corrosion of the character Richard Sennett claims that postindustrial changes in economy shapes weak-character individuals without strict moral principles and self-discipline (see 1998) and such notions as trust, mutual respect and merits in the workplace has no meaning. Apart from that Sennett analyzed only a case study of a one Italo-American family, I thing that he is wrong in this hypothesis. In my opinion, freelancers have to face the problem of self-discipline in their everyday work in homes or co-working centers. Therefore I put the hypothesis of greater or more frequent self-discipline, trust and merits of freelancers.
THE WORKPLACE AND TIME FOR WORK. The case of the work in home, as many of freelancers practice is reasonable as long as they live in big cities and do not want to lost the time for commuting to work. But work in home is not a universal mean for solving problems with life-work balance. Freelancing can be partly an escape from frustrating, as it has been described by Peter Huth (2007), office work. Interesting case will be asking freelancers if the family life and leisure time are the reasons of choosing this style of work.
LABOR MARKET AS A WHOLE. The existence of new category of workers (but not a new profession because freelancing includes diverse professions) results with changes in whole labor market. We can observe in recent years the segmentization of freelance labor market. Appearing, especially on the Internet, companies which intermediate between ‘employers’ and ’employees’ indicate institutionalization of freelance the labor market, because also we can see formation of organizations whose goal is the defense freelancers’ interests. My goal in this section will be tracing this institutional context to have better vision for this kind of background.
PROBLEMS. Apart from the case that freelancers statistically earn three times more than full-time workers (see Raszkowska 2011), they also face problems and some of them have social origin. They as sole proprietorship cannot take any special credits in banks for the development of their companies and/or professional actions. Like e.g. for buying new cameras for photographers. There are no law regulations which can make freelancer’s life easier. My goal here will be study of freelancers’ subjective and objective problems. Especially when it comes to the social security issues and federal flexicurity programs (see Flexicourity w Polsce).
FUTURE. In this section I am interested about the reasons of choosing the freelance style of work as a life-plan. Referring to the future career of those rather young (see Raport z badania…) undoubtedly significant will be the notion of the financial independence as a goal of freelancers activity. What do they think about their future job situation? What are their vision for the retirement in the Polish circumstances of public finance crisis, growing public debt and insecurity of social insurance.
Methods and techniques of research
To achieve relevant view of social situation of Polish freelancers it is necessary to refer to quantitative data gathered by Polish state institution such as Ministry of Labor and Social Policy and Central Statistic Office. Valuable data are also available from private companies like InFakt and Freelancity. Other forms of desk research have to be undertaken to reconstruct the institutional context of Polish freelancing.
On the basis of the data analysis of information provided by those institution individual depth interview scenario will be constructed. The most important method of gathering data to apply will by qualitative – conducting IDIs. Then it will be necessary on a level of data analysis to apply advanced statistical method connected with Knowledge Discovery in Databases (KDD) which is a part of data mining. Looking at phrases and wording use by interlocutors during the interviews will give a new vision for gathered data and hopefully will be evidence for the ‘state of consciousness’ of Polish freelancers and with the comparison with data gathered outside of Poland, in the interviews conducted with German and/or British, French or Israeli freelancers it will help to illustrate holistic view for the matter.
My project can be seen as a action research, whose aim is to improve the conditions of the existence of this category of professionals in the labor market. As we can read in Michael Burawoy’s text about public sociology
[e]conomics, as we know it today, depends on the existence of markets with an interest in their expansion, political science depends on the state with an interest in political stability, while sociology depends on civil society with an interest in the expansion of the social (Burawoy 2005: 24).
Here we can have a challenge for public economic sociology, which is according to this point of view should have an interest in expansion of civil society and existence of market. And freelancers can be seen as a social movement fighting for the balance between commodification and humanization of work in postindustriality. Therefore core research question will be the notion of freedom for the freelancers.
In the times when social situation of work is changing from the duty to the passion and self-realization we can study freelancers as an icon of this changes. In the context of growing role of creativity on a labor market it seems to be substantiated to investigate freelancers’ situation. In particular in country a country which has already transformed its economy from the central planned socialism to free market economy.
- Bell Daniel. 1973. The Coming of Post-Industrial Society. A Venture in Social Forecasting, Basic Books: New York.
- Burawoy Michael. 2005. For Public Sociology, American Sociological Review, 70(1), p. 4-28.
Flexicurity w Polsce. Diagnoza i rekomendacje. Raport końcowy z badania, Krynska Elzbieta (red.) Ministerstwo Pracy i Polityki Spolecznej, Departament Rynku Pracy Warszawa 2009
Florida Richard. 2002. The Rise of the Creative Class. And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure and Everyday Life, Basic Books: New York.
Huth Peter. 2007. Das Büro. Ein Uberlebenshandbuch, Rowohlt: Berlin.
Pasje Młodych Liderów IT (Passions of Young IT Leaders), Tieto and TNS OBOP. Avaliable at: http://www.tieto.pl/kariera/studenci/pasje-modych-liderow/raport-2010/Raport%20Pasje%20Modych%20Lider%c3% b3w%202010.pdf
Raszkowska Grażyna. 2011. Freelancera zatrudnię od zaraz (Freelancer to hire, immediately), Rzeczpospolita, Avaliable at: http://www.rp.pl/artykul/661807.html?print=tak
Raport z badania „Freelancer w Polsce 2010“ (Research rapport ‘Freelancer in Poland 2010’), Infakt. Avaliable at: http://www.infakt.pl/Raport_Freelancer_Polska_2010
Sennett Richard. 1998. The Corrosion of Character. The Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism, W. W. Norton & Company: New York.