The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines Contingent Work as “any job in which an individual does not have a defined long-term employment contract or one where the work hours are non-systematic.” Contingent work could be broadly defined as non-traditional, project-based, or temporary employment.
We all know why an organization would prefer to have a contingent workforce. The flexible employment arrangements offering no benefits help it to save on costs while achieving growth targets. It can fill any skill gaps by hiring skilled workers for the short term. In lean times, its core employees are protected from lay-offs by a buffer zone of temporary employees. However, organizations may not choose this path if maintaining a low turnover or requiring an assured set of skills for handling high security/high risk roles as well as a need to maintain high employee morale form a part of its strategic approach of the organization.
But, the real question is – who wants to take up such work? Regular employment is known to provide the security of a regular income, an employer-sponsored/supplemented health plan, bonus, long-term security through pension as well some enforced savings. Research has shown that a tight labor market could lead people to take up contingent work, as having some work is any day preferable to not having any work. But, is this the only reason why we see the bludgeoning growth in this sector? We must not forget the illuminating theories of Maslow before trying to understand what exactly motivates someone to take up contingent work rather than regular employment!
Contingent work is seen as a bridge to permanent work by many, and also as an opportunity to get trained on a set of new skills. While the flexible hours offer an attraction to some (eg. Working parents with children to care for), some highly skilled people – with an employed spouse taking care of the health and other employment related benefits – find better tax benefits when they take up work on contract basis. Social security regulations may limit some retired workers to temporary jobs. Temporary work may be just more stimulating for some people.
Today teachers, software engineers, litigation clerks and construction managers are just some of the skilled groups taking up contingent work by choice, making the size of the Contingent Workforce swell in numbers! According to a recent report by the American Staffing Association, 8.6 million temporary and contract employees are hired by U.S. staffing firms over the course of a year – 66% of whom say flexible work time is important to them while 23% have little or no interest in a permanent job.
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