More workers are now taking on roles as independent contractors.

A recent survey has highlighted the significant impact of freelancing on the Australian economy, with contractors forming the largest part of the independent workforce.

The study of 1,049 respondents from the online work marketplace Elance-oDesk* found the number of individuals within Australia who qualify as freelancing worker has reached 30 per cent. Extrapolated out to the whole country, this represents 3.7 million workers.

Independent contractors made up the largest chunk of these workers, representing 37 per cent of total freelancers, or almost 1.3 million individuals.

Other areas that reported considerable growth were employees taking on a second job after hours and workers with many smaller income streams, one of which involves freelancing. These groups recorded 19 per cent and 27 per cent growth respectively.

In total, Elance-oDesk estimates Australia's freelancing staff contribute more than $51 billion to the country's economy.

The appeal of freelancing is also growing over time. Younger workers have taken a particular interest in the possibility of freelancing or contacting, with over a third of those under the age of 25 freelancing, compared to only 25 per cent of the total population.

While the trend towards contracting and freelancing work has only grown with time, both companies and employees need to be aware of the health and safety requirements that come with these workers. Regardless of whether contracted workers are from a recruitment company or freelancing, it is important to recognise the health and safety challenges they face during their work.

To help, WorkPro has released an e-book on the topic of remote working. This covers all of the information companies need to address in order to create a safe environment for remote workers, regardless of their specific position.

It is also important to consider how technology can help with this process. With 59 per cent of respondents saying that new technology has rapidly change the freelancing economy, incorporating technology into work health and safety training is going to help build a strong business.

*Elance-oDesk: Freelancing in Australia: A National Survey of the New Workforce, October 16, 2014.

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