In 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, there were 46 million people working in a temporary capacity, the equivalent of 12.4 million full-time workers, according to the International Confederation of Private Employment Agencies. These employees work for 140,000 private employment agencies that operate in 179,000 branches.
Whether you’re looking to expand overseas or just curious about the global industry, we’ve compiled information on the state of the staffing industry in the United States, the European Union, India, Japan, China and Latin America.
In the first three years of recovery following the recession, the U.S. temporary staffing industry added nearly 763,000 jobs, more than any other single industry, according to the American Staffing Association. This recovery period was more robust than those of the previous two recessions.
Temporary jobs accounted for one in 10 job losses during the recession; however, they are now responsible for more than 16 percent of net employment gains since it ended in 2009, even though the industry only employs about 2 percent of the U.S. workforce.
The industry’s employment has skyrocketed as economic uncertainty drives employers to hire temporary employees rather than commit to full-time staff. Other reasons include the growing use of contract employees for greater flexibility, giving employers the ability to quickly increase or decrease staff as needed, as well as access to skills and experience not available within a company.
Temp work among European Union nations has grown in the last two decades, although its share of total employment is still low, according to Eurociett, the European Confederation of Private Employment Agencies, in a study done in collaboration with UNI Europe and the European Trade Union Confederation.
The increase is due to the role of temporary work in reintegrating the unemployed into work, transitioning students from education to work and creating a work-life balance.
However, among European Union nations, staffing service employment only accounted for an average of 1.5 percent of total employment in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, with only seven out of European 27 countries — the United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Sweden — having shares in total employment from temps of more than 1 percent.
Asian countries, for the most part, mirror U.S. and European gains.
In India, temporary staffing is becoming more common for mid- and senior-level positions, especially in sectors such as information technology, e-commerce, sales and marketing. The industry is growing at a pace of 10 to 15 percent each year, which will continue in the coming years, the Indian Staffing Federation reports.
And in Japan, the number of temporary and part-time workers reached a record high of 35.2 percent of the population in 2012 as unemployment continued to fall, according to Staffing Industry Analysts. As the nation deals with an aging population and skills shortages, temporary employment offers a welcome answer to the problem.
In China, on the other hand, the temporary staffing market is volatile, according to Staffing Industry Analysts. Despite recent changes to an employment law that says all workers have the right to equal pay, including temp workers, many are still being paid wages that are less than half the wages of the same permanent positions.
While temporary staffing is still a relatively new concept across Latin America, representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay, along with members of the Latin American Confederation of Private Employment Agencies and the International Confederation of Private Employment Services met in September to discuss the industry.
The group promoted private staffing services, highlighting their value for governments, companies and workers themselves as labor markets ebb and flow, according to staffing industry analysts. It also outlined plans to work with legal boundaries in several countries and communicate the importance of the industry to social and economic growth in Latin America.