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: Sniffing out a partner at a London pheromone party

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How Kindle Unlimited compares with Scribd, Oyster

3 hours ago

Amazon is the latest—and largest—company to offer unlimited e-books for a monthly fee. Here's how Kindle Unlimited, which Amazon announced Friday, compares with rivals Scribd and Oyster.

NASA sees powerful thunderstorms in Tropical Storm Matmo

4 hours ago

Strong thunderstorms reaching toward the top of the troposphere circled Tropical Storm Matmo's center and appeared in a band of thunderstorms on the storm's southwestern quadrant. Infrared imagery from NASA's ...

ISS 'space truck' launch postponed: Arianespace

6 hours ago

The July 24 launch of a robot ship to deliver provisions to the International Space Station has been postponed "for a few days", space transport firm Arianespace said Friday.

Recommended for you

How to win a Tour de France sprint

Jul 22, 2014

The final dash to the line in a Tour de France sprint finish may appear to the bystander to be a mess of bodies trying to cram into the width of a road, but there is a high degree of strategy involved. It ...

User comments : 0