How Temporary Help Agencies Impact the Labor Market

Aug 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: Physicist creates ice cream that changes colors as it's licked

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Physicists discuss quantum pigeonhole principle

11 hours ago

The pigeonhole principle: "If you put three pigeons in two pigeonholes at least two of the pigeons end up in the same hole." So where's the argument? Physicists say there is an important argument. While the ...

Giant crater in Russia's far north sparks mystery

13 hours ago

A vast crater discovered in a remote region of Siberia known to locals as "the end of the world" is causing a sensation in Russia, with a group of scientists being sent to investigate.

NASA Mars spacecraft prepare for close comet flyby

14 hours ago

NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19.

Recommended for you

F1000Research brings static research figures to life

Jul 30, 2014

F1000Research today published new research from Bjorn Brembs, professor of neurogenetics at the Institute of Zoology, Universitaet Regensburg, in Germany, with a proof-of-concept figure allowing readers and reviewers to run ...

How science can beat the flawed metric that rules it

Jul 30, 2014

In order to improve something, we need to be able to measure its quality. This is true in public policy, in commercial industries, and also in science. Like other fields, science has a growing need for quantitative ...

User comments : 0