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October 1996, Vol. 119, No. 10
Contingent and alternative work arrangements, defined
Anne E. Polivka
Has the era of lifetime jobs in the United States vanished and, in its stead, a "just-in-time" age of "disposable" workers appeared? Even though the majority of studies have found no change in workers overall job tenure, reports of corporate downsizing, production streamlining, and increasing use of temporary workers have caused many to question employers commitment to long term, stable employment relationships.1 There also is a growing sense that employers, in their attempts to reduce costs, have increased their use of employment intermediaries such as temporary help services and contract companies and are relying more on alternative staffing arrangements such as on-call workers and independent contractors.
This article discusses the definitions of contingent workers and alternative work arrangements used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to analyze data from a special supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS), and presents aggregate estimates of the number of workers in each group thus identified. This analysis is supplemented with data on workers in alternative employment arrangements from the 1994 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY). The article concludes with a discussion of the overlap between contingent workers and workers in alternative arrangements.
Subsequent articles in this issue use the CPS data to develop profiles of contingent workers and workers in alternative arrangements, examine the wages and nonwage benefits these workers receive, and explore contingent and alternative workers preferences for and transitions into their current arrangements.2 An article using NLSY data to examine changes in wages and hours for those who switched jobs, and the influence of life events, such as the birth of a child, on the likelihood of later working in a full-time, part-time, or alternative employment arrangement is also included in this issue.
This excerpt is from an article published in the October 1996 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 For analysis of changes in job tenure, see Henry S. Farber, "Are Lifetime Jobs Disappearing? Job Duration in the United States: 19731993," National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 5014, February 1995; Francis Diebold, David Neumark, and Daniel Polsky, "Job Stability in the United States," National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 4859, September 1994; and Kenneth Swinnerton and Howard Wial, "Is Job Stability Declining in the U.S. Economy? Reply to Diebold, Neumark and Polsky," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, January 1996. For discussions of the perception of job security, see the series of articles: "The Downsizing of America," in The New York Times, Mar. 3, 1996 to Mar. 9, 1996; Lance Morrow, "The Temping of America," Time, Mar. 29,1993; and Janice Castro, "Disposable Workers," Time, March 29,1993. Other assessments of economic security include "Whatever happened to economic anxiety? Business Week, Sept. 23, 1996:" and "Is Americas economy really failing?" The American Enterprise, July/August 1996.
2 The authors of the CPS articles thank Thomas Nardone of the Bureau of Labor Statistics for guidance in developing and writing these articles.
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