Personnel wanted

Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry

The rise in temporary employment and job mobility in OECD countries is mirrored in the rapid growth of personnel supply services. This sector provides staff on a short- or long-term basis to other sectors of the economy, mainly to deal with temporary staffing shortages. Traditionally, the sector concentrated on the supply of office and administrative staff, but nowadays, a wide range of highly skilled personnel are supplied, even company directors.

One advantage for the receiving firms is that staff requirements can be managed more flexibly, increasing overall efficiency. Advantages for the temporary staff can be the flexibility and even variety in jobs and frequently higher pay, reflecting the high demand for certain skills, as well as the pressure to compensate for the fixed duration of work assignments. But there are major disadvantages too which have to be borne in mind. Firms thrive on continuity and frequent turnover of key staff can undermine core competencies of firms, particularly when they rely extensively on agency workers. Also, the high salaries paid to agency workers (plus the margins for the supplying agency) mean high costs for the firm.

As for the agency workers, they have to face lower employment security than they would find in permanent employment (though this cannot be guaranteed of course). Moreover, the fragmentation of work experience can affect a person’s core skills, while temporary staff often have to forego certain work-related benefits of permanent contracts, such as paid leave and company pension schemes or work-based training. Some of these disadvantages can be addressed by firms in the packages they offer, particularly at the higher skilled end of the market.

Policy too can make a difference, and to increase the benefits and limit the disadvantages of agency work, many countries, such as the Netherlands, with its recent Act on Flexibility and Security (“flexecurity”), have introduced regulations to stabilise the position of temporary workers, while maintaining flexibility for agencies and employers.

See also: 

"The rise and rise of the strategic business service", OECD Observer No 219, December 1999. 

"Outsourcing Japan", OECD Observer No 219, December 1999. 

©OECD Observer No 219, December 1999




Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2017