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Helping low-income, part-time workers with blockchain technology

While the public sector has extended unprecedented relief to the American economy, there is plenty of room for the private sector to meet the needs of low-income, part-time workers through technology. The number of people working part-time will increase substantially throughout the pandemic induced recession. How can the private sector respond to assist these workers and the businesses that hire them?

In the 2008 Great Recession, not only did the number of people working part-time increase, but it took a decade for those numbers to return to pre-recession levels. As you can see near the end of this graph, the number of part-time workers has already skyrocketed in March.

SweetGig’s mission is to make it easier for part-time workers and the employers that hire this workforce to connect. Working with businesses and workers, we’ve found that commute time and availability are major friction points between the two groups. To alleviate this pain point, SweetGig asks businesses to post the available shift they’re hiring for. By including the shift on the job opening, workers can sort through jobs by the actual hours employees are expected to work and the zip code of the job, which allows workers to account for commute time and their personal schedule before applying. Employers can have confidence that anyone who applies can, at a minimum, work the available hours and arrive to work on time.

This feature is only a small step towards helping the part-time workforce. For many hourly workers the interview process more often depends upon the worker’s ability to have the right “paperwork” than a skill set. Jobs in warehouses, retail, and driving can require a surprising amount of documentation to prove who you are and that you’re legally able to work – and I’m not referring to immigration status. Proving one’s identity with drivers’ licenses, social security cards, and state ID’s, in addition to proof of credentials such as OSHA-30, pose a significant barrier to low-income workers. As we will soon be reminded, unexpected unemployment often happens in conjunction with broken relationships, loss of housing, frequent address changes including relocation to different cities and regions. The result is that paperwork gets lost in the shuffle of life.

No one company can address this issue by themselves. However, by leveraging blockchain technology, employers, government agencies, educational and training institutions, along with other partners can develop an ecosystem that allows for instant verification of certifications, degrees and worker identities. As Andy Spence of Glass Beam Consulting points out, “Contracting between a worker and a company has not changed that much from the predigital age and takes nearly as much time as it did in the 1980s. Blockchain, with its ability to attest to credentials and confirm identity without compromising privacy, could address these and other challenges.”[1] Blockchain could eliminate labor intensive background checks, reduce on onboarding times and make it easier for hourly workers to start new jobs. All workers today carry a resume with them to an interview. We can begin to develop systems that allow workers to carry a digital professional identity that showcases their value and allows for a streamlined interview and onboarding process.

The part-time workforce is growing for the foreseeable future. Governments, businesses and training & educational institutions should work together to develop systems to make it easier for people to work part-time and for employers to bring on this workforce more rapidly. SweetGig is starting on its journey to assist this population. The next step is to connect with partners who see the value of blockchain technology in addressing these issues for everyone's benefit.

[1] Spence, Andy. "Blockchain and the Chief Human Resources Officer. Transforming the HR Function and the Market for Skills, Talen and Training". Blockchain Research Institute. January 29, 2018. Accessed 4/18/2020.