How Temporary Help Agencies Impact the Labor Market

August 29, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Temporary help agencies place nearly 3 million Americans in jobs each day -- but the temp industry's very success may embolden some managers to view all workers as impermanent, jobs scholar Vicki Smith argues in her latest book, "The Good Temp."

"Labor Day is an opportunity to remind ourselves that we have a long way to go to address the risks and vulnerabilities that workers face in today's global economy," says Smith, a professor and chair of sociology at the University of California, Davis.

In the "The Good Temp," Smith and her co-author, Esther B. Neuwirth, trace how temporary employment relationships have become mainstream in recent decades, and in some ways have contributed to the unraveling of the worker-employer contract.

At the same time, the authors argue that temporary help agencies have also had positive impacts, including providing training to temps and offering opportunities that may lead to permanent jobs.

"The Good Temp" is based on field work carried out in a temporary help agency in Silicon Valley.

Understanding the temporary help industry, its rise and the "good temp" worker it produces is important to understanding today's economy, according to Smith. She notes that only about 30 percent of American workers today have one permanent, Monday-through-Friday, 40-hour-a-week job, and that the underemployment rate -- the proportion of workers who are over-qualified for their jobs or are working fewer hours than they prefer -- has reached nearly 10 percent.

"Compared with the World War II era, when it was a marginal labor practice, temporary employment is today an entrenched feature of jobs and labor markets," Smith says.

Smith's previous book is "Crossing the Great Divide: Worker Risk and Opportunity in the New Economy." She is a past chair of the American Sociological Association's Organizations, Occupations and Work Section and of the Society for the Study of Social Problems' Labor Studies Division. She earned her doctorate in sociology at UC Berkeley.

Provided by UC Davis

Explore further: Scotland's widening inequality highlighted by economists

Related Stories

Citizens 'can help save our wildlife'

July 31, 2013

Farmers and city people can play a key role in saving Australia's native animals and plants by small changes to the way they manage their paddocks and backyards.

This temporary tattoo measures metabolic stress

December 4, 2012

(Phys.org)—A medical sensor that attaches to the skin like a temporary tattoo could make it easier for doctors to detect metabolic problems in patients and for coaches to fine-tune athletes' training routines.

Recommended for you

French teen finds 560,000 year-old tooth (Update)

July 28, 2015

A 16-year-old French volunteer archaeologist has found an adult tooth dating back around 560,000 years in southwestern France, in what researchers hailed as a "major discovery" Tuesday.

The couple who Facebooks together, stays together

July 27, 2015

Becoming "Facebook official" is a milestone in modern romance, and new research suggests that activities on the popular social networking site are connected to whether those relationships last.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.