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

  • 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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    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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