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Agency Working in Britain: Character, Consequences and Regulation

  • Chris Forde
  • Gary Slater

Debate over the nature of temporary agency work has intensified in recent times, spurred on by a proposed European directive and by speculation about links with the much heralded 'knowledge' economy. This paper examines the debate, focusing on the current character of agency work in Britain. Using data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), we assess some of the claims commonly made about agency work, relating to the personal and employment characteristics of those engaged in such work, the motives of agency workers and the prospects for those who take up agency jobs. In considering the arguments surrounding regulatory change, we find there is a strong case for regulation, but that this rests on the continued disadvantage associated with agency work, with little evidence of an impact from the purported 'knowledge' economy. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2005.

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Article provided by London School of Economics in its journal British Journal of Industrial Relations.

Volume (Year): 43 (2005)
Issue (Month): 2 (06)
Pages: 249-271

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Handle: RePEc:bla:brjirl:v:43:y:2005:i:2:p:249-271
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  1. Casey, Bernard, 1988. "The Extent and Nature of Temporary Employment in Britain," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(4), pages 487-509, December.
  2. Susan N. Houseman & Arne L. Kalleberg & George A. Erickcek, 2003. "The Role of Temporary Agency Employment in Tight Labor Markets," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 57(1), pages 105-127, October.
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  7. David H. Autor, 2001. "Why Do Temporary Help Firms Provide Free General Skills Training?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1409-1448, November.
  8. Gregg, Paul & Wadsworth, Jonathan, 2000. "Mind the Gap, Please: The Changing Nature of Entry Jobs in Britain," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 67(268), pages 499-524, November.
  9. Lewis M. Segal & Daniel G. Sullivan, 1997. "The Growth of Temporary Services Work," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 117-136, Spring.
  10. Arne L. Kalleberg, 2001. "Organizing Flexibility: The Flexible Firm in a New Century," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 39(4), pages 479-504, December.
  11. Michael D. S. Morris & Alexander Vekker, 2001. "An Alternative Look at Temporary Workers, Their Choices, and the Growth in Temporary Employment," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 22(2), pages 373-390, April.
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  13. Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes, 2000. "Work transitions into and out of involuntary temporary employment in a segmented market: Evidence from Spain," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 53(2), pages 309-325, January.
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