The recent announcement by tech colossus Google of a £38.3 million initiative to “help people prepare for the changing nature of work” has been welcomed by contractor group the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE).

The Internet giant plans to direct the money towards non-profits and other organisations in the US and Europe to research the rapidly morphing nature of work and help whom it calls “under-served people” to gain the skills and connections that they require to obtain new jobs.

IPSE acknowledged that technology is transforming work across the globe at an unprecedented rate, far more rapidly than national governments can keep pace with. The sheer speed of change makes it more pressing than ever to gain a global overview on working practices, not only to drive business innovation but also to keep governments up to speed with the developments.

However, IPSE made a plea to the beneficiaries of Google’s initiative: don’t overlook one of the most important areas of change, namely the rise of the gig economy and independent contracting professionals who bring sought-after skills to a succession of different businesses and organisations.

Google has already announced one of it beneficiaries: the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a non-profit focusing on supporting vulnerable domestic workers in the US. IPSE endorses such work.

The contractor body also urged Google to combine its exploration of the more negative effects of the gig economy with a recognition of the numerous benefits that it has brought to truly self-employed people, such as flexible, independent professionals. The latter have actively chosen to eschew salaried employment in favour of contracting for a range of different end clients via Umbrella Companies or personal service companies.

IPSE called on Google to help ensure the protection of vulnerable workers and the viability of genuine self-employment as an attractive way of working.

Describing Google’s initiative as potentially “very positive,” Simon McVicker, Director of Policy at IPSE, agreed that it is more important than ever before to gain an international overview of changing working practices. For an Internet giant such as Google to throw its hat into the ring, he said, is “a big step forward.”

He added: “The key now will be to make sure that when they look at the gig economy, they get the full picture. In the UK, at any rate, there’s a myth circulating that the gig economy’s all bad. But in fact, for many people, it provides not only flexibility but a valuable source of extra income. It’s important that the research that comes out of this initiative gets the whole picture – the bad and the good.”

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