Temporary Agency Work and Precarious Employment: A Review of the Current Situation in Australia and New Zealand**

By Burgess, John; Connell, Julia et al. | Management Revue, July 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Temporary Agency Work and Precarious Employment: A Review of the Current Situation in Australia and New Zealand**


Burgess, John, Connell, Julia, Rasmussen, Erling, Management Revue


This paper reviews three key issues associated with temporary agency work (referred to as agency work herewith) by drawing on Australian and New Zealand trends and experiences. First, the authors contend that it is surprising, in light of its high flexibility, that agency work constitutes a relatively small proportion of total employment in both countries. This article presents several reasons which can provide an explanation for employers' relatively limited use of agency employment. These reasons also show that agency work must be seen as part of the wider expansion of atypical employment arrangements. Second, the paradoxical mix of glamour and precariousness often associated with agency work is discussed. While labour flexibility is often associated with insecurity and precariousness, there are also advantageous forms of agency employment for all parties concerned. Consequently, this article provides an overview of recent research findings. It is evident from the research literature on agency work that there is either an emphasis on its precarious nature or on the individual preferences and choices of the temps themselves. In many countries, extensive regulatory arrangements exist that govern both the agency sector and the agency employment contract. This is not the case, however, in Australia and New Zealand and the effects of this unregulated approach are discussed as is the possibility of regulatory interventions that could be introduced at a future date.

Key words: Temp Agency Employment, Flexibility, Regulation

Introduction

Over the past two decades, there has been extensive growth and internationalisation of the employment agency sector, with organisations such as Kellys, Drake, Randstat, Manpower and Adecco being established within most OECD countries. The spectacular growth of the industry has made it more visible while alerting trade unions and regulators to its potential implications for employment conditions. In Australia and New Zealand, there have been several public inquiries into the sector, in part this has reflected the general ignorance surrounding its dimensions and the implications for public policy (Labour Hire Task Force 2001; Productivity Commission 2005).

Despite its visibility, agency work is an enigma for the analysts - it is part of the romance of self employment, flexibility and freedom, and it is also part of a process that undermines employment conditions, collectivism and employee rights. It is linked to new work and to the new economy, yet it is also linked to traditional areas of 'temping' such as seasonal and replacement work (Burgess/Connell, 2004a). There are clearly many research angles which, in this paper, are restricted to discussion of three questions:

* How is agency work regulated in Australia and New Zealand and is the regulatory approach likely to change?

* Does the relative share of agency work of total employment match its visibility and flexibility and what may limit employer choice?

* Why do people choose agency employment if it is a very precarious form of work?

Regulation, labour flexibility and temp agency work

The cost effectiveness, flexibility and precariousness of agency work is closely linked with regulation and regulatory effectiveness. The confusion and uncertainty surrounding agency work has resulted in some countries having extensive regulations governing both the operation of agencies and the agency employment contract (De Ruyter 2004; Storrie 2002). This is clearly not the case in Australia and New Zealand which have, according to Burgess et al. (2004a), a 'wild west', unregulated approach. While this article explores the regulatory status of agency work, it also raises the question of why agency work is unregulated in Australia and New Zealand. It is a rather paradoxical situation considering the comprehensive work regulations associated with the centurylong tradition of arbitration and conciliation systems and well-established union movements. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Temporary Agency Work and Precarious Employment: A Review of the Current Situation in Australia and New Zealand**
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.