The agency work industry around the world
At a time when it is has become the latest "call to arms" amongst labour and certain (limited) sectors of government and the slipping and sliding from vocal politicians calling for the initial "banning of labour brokers" to the now moderate call for their "proper regulation", this report from CIETT provides an alternative perspective on the employment opportunities created by legitimate temporary employment agencies.
In 2008, the global agency work industry began to feel the brunt of the economic downturn that started in the USA and quickly spread to the rest of the world.
Depending on the openness and the socioeconomic fabric of their economies and the flexibility of their labour markets, certain countries were hit harder than others, and some still continued to grow.
Overall, the total number of agency workers worldwide fell by a mere 1% in 2008, compared to 2007, amounting to just over 9.5 million full-time equivalents on a daily basis. In parallel, global total annual sales revenues also fell by 1%, amounting to €232 billion. The negative impact of the economic crisis on the labour market in general, and the agency work sector in particular, began in spring 2008 and accelerated in 2009. The tepid economic recovery spreading across most developed economies at the end of 2009 is still judged too anaemic to stop the continuing rise in unemployment, expected to peak in the USA in the first half of 2010, and to continue to rise in Europe till 2011.
In 2008, some markets, such as Japan and Germany, continued to grow, still benefiting from recently introduced regulatory changes that improved labour market flexibility and cushioned the impact of the crisis. Nascent global powerhouses, such as Brazil and South Africa, also continued to grow, boosted by their rapidly expanding economies, which were only temporarily setback by the crisis. However, more mature markets, such as the USA and the UK, already witnessed stark declines.
Agency work plays - and still has the potential to play further - a valuable role in easing transitions within and to the labour market. Agency work creates jobs that would not otherwise exist, enhancing companies’ competitiveness and workers’ employability, thereby promoting a labour market that corresponds better to peoples’ - and companies’ - needs and aspirations.
In more troubled times, the agency work industry’s capacity to anticipate and match labour market needs with the required skills is even more crucial, as agencies serve as impresarios for workers, immediately identifying job vacancies, providing training, and facilitating the transition from unemployment to work, from one assignment to the next. In addition, agency work also prepares the ground for a job-creating economic upturn, helping companies face the ongoing global Introduction competitive pressure, increasing labour market participation, and furthermore, accelerating and increasing the number of jobs created once the economy recovers.
Now more than ever, the agency work industry plays a key role in improving the functioning of the labour market, by facilitating the match between supply and demand of labour and providing more work opportunities for more people.
- ILO Conventions (APPLIS) - Private Employment Agencies Convention, 1997 (No. 181) - recognises the “role private employment agencies may play in a well-functioning labour market”. The purpose of the Convention is to allow for the operation of private employment agencies, as well as to protect the workers using their services (Article 2.3).
- List of Ratifications (APPLIS) - List of Ratifications of International Labour Conventions
- Labour Broker - Temporary Employment Services (Workinfo.com Poll)
- A considered approach to temporary employment agencies from the ILO
- Assign Services (Pty) Limited V National Union of Metalworkers Union of South Africa And Others (Casual Workers Advice Office as Amicus Curiae)
- Assign Services (Pty) Limited v National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa
- Dispute between Numsa and labour brokers continues
- Temporary employment service providers are not gone – and definitely not forgotten
- Labour Brokers Bad for South African Workers, but Trade Unions Not Much Better