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Why do contractors contract? The experience of highly skilled technical professionals in a contingent labor market


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  • Gideon Kunda
  • Stephen R. Barley
  • James Evans
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    This study examines 52 highly skilled technical contractors' explanations, in 1998, of why they entered the contingent labor force and how their subsequent experiences altered their viewpoint. The authors report three general implications of their examination of the little-studied high-skill side of contingent labor. First, current depictions of contingent work are inaccurate. For example, contrary to the pessimistic 'employment relations' perspective, most of these interviewees found contracting better-paying than permanent employment; and contrary to optimistic 'free agent' views, many reported feeling anxiety and estrangement. Second, occupational networks arose to satisfy needs (such as training and wage-setting) that employing organizations satisfy for non-contingent workers. Third, regarding their place in the labor market, high-skilled and well-paid technical contractors cannot be called--as contingent workers usually are--'secondary sector' workers; and their market is not dyadic, with individuals selling labor and firms buying it, but triadic, involving intermediaries such as staffing firms. (Author's abstract.)

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School in its journal ILR Review.

    Volume (Year): 55 (2002)
    Issue (Month): 2 (January)
    Pages: 234-261

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    Handle: RePEc:ilr:articl:v:55:y:2002:i:2:p:234-261

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    Cited by:
    1. Andersson Joona, Pernilla & Wadensjö, Eskil, 2004. "Temporary Employment Agencies: A Route for Immigrants to Enter the Labour Market?," IZA Discussion Papers 1090, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Alaric Bourgoin & Nicolas Bencherki, 2013. "The performance of authority in organizations: an example from management consulting," CSI Working Papers Series 029, Centre de Sociologie de l'Innovation (CSI), Mines ParisTech.
    3. Arnaldo Camuffo, 2002. "The Changing Nature of Internal Labor Markets," Journal of Management and Governance, Springer, Springer, vol. 6(4), pages 281-294, December.
    4. Sílvia Lopes & Maria Chambel, 2014. "Motives for Being Temporary Agency Worker: Validity Study of One Measure According to The Self-Determination Theory," Social Indicators Research, Springer, Springer, vol. 116(1), pages 137-152, March.
    5. Sharon Bolton & Maeve Houlihan & Knut Laaser, 2012. "Contingent Work and Its Contradictions: Towards a Moral Economy Framework," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, Springer, vol. 111(1), pages 121-132, November.
    6. Eichhorst, Werner & Kahanec, Martin & Kendzia, Michael J. & Wehner, Caroline & al., et, 2013. "Report No. 54: Social Protection Rights of Economically Dependent Self-employed Workers," IZA Research Reports 54, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).


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