Contingent work is part-time work, temporary work, or subcontracted work that offers advantages to employers but that can be detrimental to the welfare of workers. Contingent work is found in every segment of the war\' force, including colleges and universities. where tenure-track positions are fewer in number than in the past and a series of one-year, non-tenure-track appointments at the lecturer or instructor level has become a means of livelihood for many professionals (Mydans, 1995). The federal government is part of this trend. as is private enterprise. In addition. the health care field continues to undergo significant change, as physicians. nurses, and other health care workers are inc easingly employed through temporary agencies (Rosengarten. 1995).
Employers benefit by hiring workers on a part-time or temporary basis; they are able to cut costs. maximize profits. and have workers available only when they need them. As some companies have cut their work force. or downsized. they have replaced "slaffing table" employees who had higher salaries and full benefit packages with part-time and hourly employees who receive lower wages and no benefits. Although some people voluntarily work part time (such as through job
sharing and work sharing), many people are forced todo so because they lack opportunities for full-time employment. In 2008 nearly 33 million persons in nonagricultural industries indicated that they were holding only a part-time job. 111e number of persons working part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary .part-time workers) was 8.8 million in July of that year (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2009). Temporary workers are the fastest-growing segment of the contingent work force. and agencies that "place" them have increased dramatically in number in the last decade. The agencies provide workers
contract basis to employers for an he workers are paid a portion of this fee. Temporary workers usually have lower wages and fewer benefits than permanent. full-time employees in the same held. Among manual laborers who earn the minimum wage or slightly more. very little is left after the temporary gency takes its fee. Subcontracted work is another form of contingent work that often cuts employers' costs at the expenseof workers. Instead of employing a large work force.
many companies have significantly reduced the size of their payrolls and benefit plans by."belll/trading-an agreement in which a corporation contract. with other (1Ilually smaller) firm. to provide .peclal- Iud components, products, or lervlcn to the larger corporation. Companies ranging from athletic shoe manufacturers to high-tech industries have found that it is more cost efficient (and profitable) to subcontract some of their work to small contractors. For example.a construction company may enter into a contract to build an airport or commercial building and then subcontract components of the work (such as electrical. plumbing. and carpentry) to other firms. Hiring and paying workers on the project becomes the responsibility of the subcontractor, not the general contractor.The employment practices of some subcontractors are unethical, if not illegal. In the garment industry in El Paso. Texas. for example. subcontractors' plants are referred to as talleres de hambre (workshops of hunger) (Myers?n.1994).