Change Management

Why temporary work doesn’t mean job insecurity

The production system is increasingly obligated to adapt to continuous changes, a circumstance that demands great flexibility and encourages collaborative work relationships to an ever-higher degree.

The other day I read an article published in El Confidencial that discussed the growing instability of work in Spain.  I observed, once again, how the concept of temporariness is equated with job insecurity. It never ceases to amaze me how a quantitative term (temporary: lasting for a certain amount of time) is used as a synonym for something qualitative (precarious: insecure work conditions).

Indeed, job insecurity is extensive, and it must be fought— but we’re not focusing on the right issues. The focus shouldn’t be on temporariness, but rather on the underground economy, on false freelancers, on fake job security, on underpayment and much more.

The topic of temporary contracts and indefinite contracts should not be the basis, in and of itself, for any kind of value judgment. Each one has its function; they do not equate to “bad work” versus “good work”. First of all, temporary work has some strengths that should be recognized, including:

  • It is often a gateway to the job market or a first step toward entering the company in question.
  • The flexibility offered by temporary jobs can allow greater adaptability to changing situations throughout the worker’s life or a certain period of time.
  • Many workers who have a hard time securing employment find opportunities through temporary work. This concept is exemplified by young people, who can acquire the job experience required of them through this type of employment.
  • Passing through more jobs in different companies allows for constant learning, something that’s incredibly important in today’s ever-changing labor market.
  • They can be very useful for building a network of professional contacts. In this case, often far above the possibilities presented by fixed contracts.

Part of this false direct relationship between temporariness and insecurity comes from the automatic association with low-skilled and low-paid jobs. But qualifications and wages are equally applicable to indefinite contracts. Moreover, we often forget that since 1996, the wages of temporary workers must be equal to the salaries of the contracting company by law.

Temporary work in Spain by the numbers

Clarifying this fundamental distinction between insecurity and temporariness helps us to read the data and take a step back from some claims. We all know that the figures related to temporary work in Spain show its increasing importance in our labor market. The Annual Report of the Banco de España 2016 pointed out that 54% of the jobs that have been created since 2013 are temporary.

This fact alone, as I have said, is too opaque to draw conclusions. Are those 54% of temporary jobs meeting the expectations of workers? We can’t know with just this data.

Underemployment, on the other hand, does offer more conclusions; its current rate is 6.2% of the active population in Spain, according to Eurostat, and its existence is—for all intents and purposes—negative.

The present and future of temporary work

What is the future of temporary work? Is this rising trend of limited-duration contracts worrisome? In order to analyze these questions, we can’t forget the economic context and market trends. The production system is increasingly obligated to adapt to continuous changes, a circumstance that demands great flexibility and encourages collaborative work relationships to an ever-higher degree. Because of this, the outsourcing of services is allowing companies to adapt without incurring large costs or massive changes in their staff.

From the worker’s point of view, as noted in the Report of the ILO Director-General on The Future of Work Centenary Initiative, the concept of “a single job for a working life” is coming to an end. This will be true at all levels, both for low-skilled workers and for highly skilled workers who earn large salaries. As of the present moment, in fact, we have already arrived at this point. In the article “How to find the technology experts that every company wants”, we noted the tendency of workers with technological backgrounds to work under temporary contracts for work and service, a pattern that is spreading to all sectors, and which has led the CEOE to request free rein for companies to give as much flexibility as possible to temporary hiring.

Qualified temporary work

It’s a trend. Forget about that association between temporariness and low qualifications. Let’s think, for example, about the outsourcing of strategic or specialized roles; the interim hiring of senior management; freelancers and people who work “by project” and collaborative work via the cloud. None of those things are associated with insecurity, right? Well, they also involve temporary contracts! And this doesn’t seem to be a passing trend.  The time has come, then, to give temporary work the treatment and dignity it deserves, in contrast to job insecurity, which we strive to avoid.

Temporal Quality: The most highly valued company for temporary work, beating the biggest competitors

Dignifying temporary work means seeing this type of employment for what it is: key for companies. Consequently, it demands that both the people in charge of selection and the available candidates have a great knowledge of the sector, and of course if requires a people-centric focus. In order to improve its services and get to know the vision of the candidates and companies themselves, Temporal Quality—Grup Montaner’s company specializing in temporary work—recently conducted a branding study in which the candidates’ evaluations surpassed those of all the largest competitors in the sector.

Grup Montaner’s Brand study (2017)

This study analyzed various key points of the selection process, such as:

  • Advising and assistance during the process
  • Clarity and transparency of the offer
  • Trust and empathy of the interviewer
  • Agility in administrative management
  • Process of the interview
  • Updating of information during the process
  • Consideration for other openings

From all of these fundamental aspects, it received an average score of 3.6 out of 5, the highest among all the temporary work companies studied. Despite this, we’re not satisfied yet; we’ve already begun to study the results in order to implement improvements to further optimize these processes. Today, we are more aware than ever of the importance of dignifying temporary work as one more option for employment.