Fifty years ago, the average worker expected to stay with one employer for the duration of their career, and that employer provided a full suite of benefits that guaranteed economic security to the worker and their family. Today traditional full-time employment is no longer the norm. More people—including the majority of Etsy sellers—work independently and combine income from multiple sources. As a result, a growing number of people lack access to the benefits that ensure basic economic security.

To date, proposals to address these challenges have focused on incremental reforms that attempt to retrofit 20th-century systems into a 21st-century economy. Though well intentioned, this approach fails to cover all of the people who are impacted by the changing economy. 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.

We start from the basic premise that everyone needs:

  • A single place to manage benefits, regardless of income source
  • A simple, common way to fund those benefits
  • A way to manage income fluctuations

These proposals are not meant to be prescriptive, but rather the beginning of a conversation. In publishing this paper, we hope to broaden the scope of the current debate about the future of work in the US, and put forward ideas upon which others might build. We are deeply appreciative of our advisors who have lent their ears, brains and imaginations throughout the process, and look forward to continued discussion with collaborators both old and new.

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