Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Temporary Employment

Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Temporary Employment

Article excerpt

Why do companies hire temporary employees? The answer: to attain "numerical flexibility." But what are the relevant elements of numerical flexibility? Matt Vidal and Leann M. Tigges make progress towards a full answer to this question in their article "Temporary Employment and Strategic Staffing in the Manufacturing Sector" (Industrial Relations, January 2009, pp. 55-72).

Temporary employment grew dramatically in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s. Vidal and Tigges set forth three suggested general explanations for hiring temps: reactive numerical flexibility, planned numerical flexibility, and systematic numerical flexibility. Hiring temporary employees in order to cope with unexpected changes in demand or employment qualifies as reactive numerical flexibility. If an employer hires temps in order to be able to handle expected fluctuations in demand or employment, to allow a group of core workers to remain safe from layoffs, or to screen for regular employment, then the employer is engaging in planned numerical flexibility. Systematic numerical flexibility, in contrast, is achieved when a company hires "temporary" employees to fill regular, long-term positions.

Vidal and Tigges use data from a survey of Wisconsin manufacturing establishments to seek evidence supporting each of the three general explanations for hiring temps. They find statistically significant relationships indicating that employers hire temps in order to attain planned and systematic numerical flexibility, but they find much less evidence supporting the hypothesis that establishments use temps in a reactive manner. …

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