The Continuing Rise of Temporary Work
I made a short presentation on the disturbing rise of temporary work last week. It seems the cutting edge of the new normal is to be found in our schools, colleges and universities.
As most of us would know or strongly suspect, paid work has becomeÂ more casualized or precarious over time as the standard employment relationship of full time, permanent paid work for an employer hasÂ been eroded as the norm.Â In 2010, just 64.0% of men and 59.5% of women were still in such jobs. Â The others were in part-time jobs, or temporary jobs, or in self-employment.
Temporary work is the most obviously precarious category. By definition, it is employment thatÂ comes to an end, either because it is seasonal work, or because it is contract work with a pre-set end date. Many temporary jobs are also part-time (one third of such jobs for men, and half for women.) While some people do seek temporary jobs, they are an inferior choice for most and are less well paid and provide limited if any access to benefits.
The incidence of temporary work for men rose from 1997 to 2007, the last full year before the recession, from 8.8% to 10.0%. For women, the increase was from 10.1% to 12.0%. For both, the increase came before 2005 and thenÂ fell slightly. Â As one might expect, employers seem to have been obliged to offer more secure jobs when the national unemployment rate fell below 7%.
Between 2007 and 2010 – the years of recession and partial recovery – the incidence of temporary work again rose, from 10.0% to 10.5% for men; and fromÂ 12.0% to 12.1% for women. Â That does not sound dramatic, but the majority of job creation at the margin has been in temporary jobs.Â Â In fact, two-thirds of the net job increase for men 2007-10 was in temporary jobs, and one sixth of the increase for women.
(I am looking at changes in annual averages since the monthly data are not seasonally adjusted. If I compare December, 2007 to December, 2010, I find that less one third of net paid job growth was in permanent jobs.)
What some might find surprising is that temporary jobs are disproportionately to be found in the public sector, which accounts for 25% of all employees, but 31% of temporary jobs, and 40% of all contract jobs. Within public services, the incidence ofÂ contract work is extraordinarily high in educational services which accounts for 8% of all workers, and 22% of all contract jobs.Â The incidence of temporary work is just about average in public administration and health andÂ social services, though if one just looks at contract work the incidence is a bit higher than average.Â Â
As one would expect, temporary workers tend to be much younger than average, and, less predictably, are somewhat more likely than average to be unionized. Â
If the experience of the 1990s is anything to go by, a lot of new hiring in a weak recovery will be into temporary jobs. Temporary work will likely be the norm for younger workers leaving school and entering the full-time job market, and they have to wait a long time to get into permanent jobs.
The tilt of new hiring towards temporary jobs underlines just how much slack there is in the job market.