Obama, tech start-ups discuss changing workplace

US President Barack Obama has expressed his concern that the growing popularity of the 'gig' economy could actually have a negative impact on the average worker, the CNBC website reports.

Speaking at a summit held at the White House earlier this month, the president discussed a range of work-related issues with leaders of business and technology start-ups, from automation to freelancing and the minimum wage.

The aim of the discussion was to suggest ideas for improved regulations around the American workforce as it enters a new disruptive phase.

Commenting on the so-called 'gig' economy - where workers are moving between temporary jobs without any benefits - Mr Obama said that although services such as Uber and TaskRabbit create more opportunities and enable people to work more flexibly, this trend could cause problems in terms of employee rights and benefits.

"If the combination of globalization and automation undermines the capacity of the ordinary worker and the ordinary family to be able to support themselves [...] then we're going to have problems," he stated.

At the same time, the president commended the behaviour of companies such as Costco which has a generous starting salary and offers its employees numerous benefits and opportunities to progress.

On the other hand, he conveyed disapproval of companies bringing in high numbers of contractors and permatemp workers in order to cut costs by not offering the same pay and benefits as permanent, full-time staff.

Arun Sundararajan, a professor of information, operations and management sciences at New York University, told the publication: "We're not in a world anymore where everyone wants full-time, salaried employment. It's hard to use minimum wage (laws) to help someone who runs their own business of one, and this is a growing fraction of the workforce."

Also invited to join the discussion was Dan Teran, co-founder of tech start-up Managed by Q. He told CNBC it was a wise move to include technology companies and new economy employers in the panel, "to make sure that we're really moving toward the future of work, rather than trying to recreate the past."

Obama admitted that it would be unlikely to see new legislations passed during his final 15 months in office, but noted that it was important to begin the conversation.