Inside the Black Box of Temporary Help Agencies
Based on a new panel dataset created in close cooperation with one of the largest temporary help agencies (THAs) in Germany, this paper presents novel evidence on key aspects of temporary agency work, a segment of the labor market that despite its growing importance remains underresearched. In particular, we provide detailed information on the internal operation of a THA and the allocative function it performs both as an intermediate demander and as a final supplier of labor in this submarket. In addition to offering first examination of effective wage and fee schedules, we document, among others, the rise of on-call hiring, recalls and fixed-term contracts in the recruitment of workers, the reasons for job termination, as well as the volume of labor actually contracted per worker and per worker-client match. We show that the THA manages to utilize effectively its workforce in assignments and keeps idle labor at a minimum. In fact, more than a third of workers exhibit multiple client engagements. One-off recruitment and dismissal costs per worker can thus effectively be spread across different clients.
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