Etsy is one of the original players in the gig economy. Way back in 2005, the online marketplace for handmade goods gave people a way to sell their creations. While Etsy sellers differ from typical gig economy workers, such as ridesharing drivers and Taskrabbits, they are nonetheless gig workers who earn money when they sell goods.
Etsy is now forging new ground by lobbying for the economic security of its sellers. In a new report the company points out the striking growth of the gig economy and calls for reforms to our current benefits system stating, “It’s time to start thinking bigger and reimagine a world that guarantees a social safety net to everyone who works, regardless of how they work.”
The report starts with the premises that everyone needs a single place to manage benefits, regardless of income source; a simple, common way to fund those benefits; and a way to manage income fluctuations.
Etsy proposes a Federal Benefits Portal, which would tie all benefits (retirement, health insurance, paid leave, tax-advantaged savings accounts, disability, etc.) to the individual; using tax withholding as the universal means to administer benefits contributions; and combining all existing tax-advantaged savings accounts into a single MyFlex Account, which anyone could use to manage short-term income fluctuations.
The report also shares key Etsy statistics, including the following:
- Over 50% of Etsy sellers are independent workers. The vast majority of them—86% of whom are women—are sole proprietors working alone out of their homes.
- While 30% of Etsy sellers focus on their creative business as their sole occupation, 65% said they started their Etsy shop as a way to supplement income
Overhauling the current benefits system would not be easy but the report argues that it is necessary:
"There’s no doubt that these proposals would constitute a fundamental shift in the way benefits are financed, delivered and managed in the United States. Yet, given the changes underway in the US economy, we believe the circumstances demand nothing less."
The report calls for significant changes to benefits system but does not claim that Etsy has all the answers. As Althea Erickson, who leads Etsy’s advocacy and policy work, wrote in a blog post, “These proposals are not meant to be prescriptive, but rather, the beginning of a conversation.”