Flexible Staffing Practices and Job Quality

Awarded Scholars:
Susan Houseman, W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research
George Erickcek, W. E. Upjohn Institute
Project Date:
Jun 1998
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Future of Work



Employers in many industries increasingly make use of flexible staffing arrangements, hiring workers on variable or part-time schedules suited to production requirements. By some estimates, the flexible or contingent labor force, made up of day laborers, contract workers, and part-time employees, already approaches 25% of the total U.S. labor force. Given that flexible workers, as a rule, earn less and receive fewer benefits than regular workers, many would prefer a regular job. But flexible jobs need not always be bad jobs, if workers have their own reasons for wanting flexibility.


George Erickcek and Susan Houseman from the W.E Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Michigan, together with Arne Kalleberg of the University of North Carolina have received a grant for a series of case studies-- in the health care, banking, and manufacturing industries-- examining the reasons behind the shift to flexible staffing and the impact of contingent employment on workers. In interviews with managers, workers, and temporary employment agencies, the investigators will examine how the earnings, productivity, and benefits of flexible workers compare to those of regular, full-time employees. They will also look at training and job mobility, gauging how often flexible workers move up into regular jobs. An important goal of this project is to discover how flexible workers fare without the benefits - especially the medical insurance - reserved for regular workers.


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