Call for Papers


3rd IZA Labor Statistics Workshop: Contract Work

Organizers: Katharine G. Abraham (University of Maryland and IZA), Susan N. Houseman (Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and IZA)
Location:Upjohn Institute, Kalamazoo, USA
Date:July 23 - July 24, 2019

Submission Deadline:March 15, 2019
Notification of Acceptance:April 05, 2019

Event Manager:

Viola Hartmann

About the Workshop

In lieu of hiring employees, firms may hire workers as independent contractors or freelancers, who are treated as self-employed; hire workers through temporary help firms or other third-party intermediaries; or outsource work to contract companies whose employees do tasks previously performed by in-house employees. The recent development of mobile apps and online platforms that connect workers with clients (e.g., Uber, Lyft, and Mechanical Turk) reflects a new business model based on independent contractor, or "gig" work. In addition, the franchise model represents a variant of contracting out in which the franchisor largely retains control of the intellectual property and dictates operations at its franchises, which employ most of the workers. Although firms have always outsourced work, some evidence points to a substantial recent growth in the use of these various types of contract work in advanced economies. Available measures of the scope and nature of these changes are often limited, however, and our understanding of their implications for workers and businesses is incomplete.

The purpose of the 2019 workshop of IZA's "Labor Statistics" program area is to bring together senior and junior researchers to discuss their recent empirical research related to contract work. We particularly encourage submissions of papers that present new evidence on:
  • The prevalence of and trends in various types of contract work including independent contractor and freelance work, "gig" work associated with mobile apps and online platforms, "off the books" work, outsourcing to contract companies, and franchising.
  • The types of firms using these arrangements and the characteristics of workers in them.
  • Implications of outsourcing for firms' productivity and profitability and for workers' compensation, working conditions, and earnings inequality.

Preference will be given to papers that have an explicit measurement focus or that develop or make use of novel data - including data from surveys, administrative records, linked data sets, or proprietary sources - to produce better measurements or fill data gaps while addressing substantive questions related to contract work.

Keynote Speaker - David Weil

David Weil, Dean and Professor of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, will be the keynote speaker at the workshop. Weil was the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor under President Barack Obama. He is author of The Fissured Workplace: Why Work Became So Bad for So Many and What Can Be Done to Improve It (Harvard University Press), which examines the growth of outsourcing by large companies and argues that this trend has led to lower wages and benefits, unsafe working conditions, and higher inequality.


Researchers interested in participating should submit a full paper or extended abstract by March 15, 2019.
Notification of acceptance will be provided by April 5, 2019.

Travel and Accommodation

Those authors who are invited are expected to participate in the entire 2-day workshop. Economy class airfares and up to 3 nights of lodging for presenting authors and discussants will be covered according to the IZA Reimbursement Guidelines.

Please note that tax regulations prohibit IZA from fully reimbursing the travel expense of conference participants who combine their trip with other destinations or extend their stay beyond the four-day window surrounding the event.