Contingent Workers Are the Survival of the Fittest

"What is a contingent worker?"

Five years ago, this was the most common response I received when I said I write on contingent workforce issues. And no, I am not talking about just my friends and acquaintances. Even those in the staffing ecosystem, including the erstwhile end users of temporary labor, were often stumped by the term.

Fast forward to 2012. The term contingent worker is widely used and accepted. Google it and you get 8,770,000 results. In contrast, temporary worker — once the more popular expression — gets only 3,380,000 results. So what changed? The recession played its part in promoting the use of these workers. Subsequently, corporate America, especially the C-suite, saw the benefits of a flexible just-in-time workforce.

And like any species, with evolution came the understanding that the term temporary worker had its limitations. Temporary worker meant just that. Contingent worker, on the other hand, could encompass various sub-species: Terms like temporaries, contract workers, statement of work consultants, independent contractors, freelancers, staff augmentation, professionals, independents, free-agent workforce — the mutations that entered the lexicon were numerous.

And as a last straw, temporary workers themselves didn’t like to be called temporary. They felt that it was demeaning. So there you have it. Staffing Industry Analysts estimates that global continent spending is about $1.5 trillion. This week at the Executive Forum in Las Vegas, around 1,000 professionals will gather to discuss how new staffing developments involving contingent workers can add to your bottom line. Watch SIA’s crack research team give you employment numbers and other contingent workforce statistics that will keep you ahead of your competition.

Hope to see you there.


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Global Employment Network, Inc. (GENi)03/29/2012 12:19 pm

Your article regarding the contingent work force is very timely. I see them as a vastly under-utilized and rapidly growing phenomenon of the 21st century labor economy. The sooner our political leaders recognize the hidden value of CWs and make accommodations for them in the legislative infrastructure of employment/labor law, the sooner our nation will discover solutions to sustainable jobs creation and hiring.

I am passionate about influencing public policy to recognize the contingent labor force as a legitimate "employee" classification and I write extensively about this topic on If you ever see an opportunity to collaborate on any level to advance this mission, please do not hesitate to let me know.

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