United Nations Says Temps Bore the Brunt of Layoffs

By Staff Report

Oct. 21, 2009

Temporary workers bore the brunt of layoffs in the developed world as the recession took hold, most noticeably in the vehicle manufacturing sector, according to a report released Monday, October 19, by the United Nations’ International Labour Organization.

In Germany, between 100,000 and 150,000 workers employed by temporary agencies were laid off in the four to six months following October 2008, according to the report. The Japanese government estimated 85,000 temporary workers lost their jobs since the second quarter of 2008.

In the U.S., 52,000 temporary jobs through employment agencies were lost per month from December 2007 to April 2009.

The report was released as the ILO stages a workshop Tuesday, October 20, and Wednesday, October 21, in Geneva to promote U.N. Convention 181 on private employment agencies.

The convention calls for member countries to create laws preventing discrimination against temporary workers, allowing them to organize, ensuring child labor is not used and prohibiting employment agencies from charging workers (with possible exceptions).

The convention came into effect in May 2000, but only 21 countries had ratified it as of July. The U.S. and Canada are not among the countries.

The report said the temporary employment industry doubled in size from 1994 to 1999 and again from 1999 to 2006. It now has $341 billion in revenue.

Sweden had the fastest growth in the number of workers dispatched by temporary agencies at 321 percent between 1997 and 2007 among countries listed in the report. Japan posted the second-fastest growth at 291 percent during the period. The growth rate in the U.S. was 21 percent.

The U.S. had the most temporary workers of any country at almost 3 million in 2007. It was followed by the U.K. at almost 1.4 million and Japan at 1.3 million.

The U.K. registered the highest penetration rate of temporary workers in 2007 at 4.8 percent, according to the report. It was followed by Japan and the Netherlands at 2.8 percent each.

In the U.S., the penetration rate in 2007 was 2 percent.

—Staffing Industry Analysts

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