Temporary agencies place approximately two and a half million
people in jobs each day in the United States. Every year, about
twelve million people use these placement agencies to find
temporary work. Many Americans, even those who desire permanent
jobs, decide to enter the labor market through the portal of
temporary agencies. Compared with the post-World War II era, when
it was a marginal labor practice, temporary employment is today an
entrenched feature of jobs and labor markets. How have temporary
employment relationships become so widespread and normalized?
In The Good Temp, Vicki Smith and Esther B. Neuwirth
provide some novel answers to this question. Their provocative
analysis is based on an insider's view of the interior dynamics of
a temporary help agency in Silicon Valley. It incorporates a
historical perspective on the rise of the temporary help service
industry. Smith and Neuwirth document how this powerful industry
not only created a new market for temporary labor but also played a
fundamental role in the erosion of the permanent employment model.
They analyze how agencies themselves came to manufacture and market
this reinvented product-the good temp, an employee who is effective
and efficient, committed, and sometimes preferable to a permanent
Joining extensive participant observation data with historical
analysis, The Good Temp contains some surprising findings
about temporary employment today and fills a significant gap in our
understanding of this important labor relationship.
Subjects: Management & Organizational Behavior
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