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Is temp a trap?

ILO News looks at young people trapped in temporary jobs with few prospects of moving to full-time employment. Ekkehard Ernst, Chief of the ILO’s Employment Trends Unit, says governments can help improve the situation.

Analysis | 14 August 2012
GENEVA (ILO News) – Temporary work can be a great way for young people to gain work experience while still studying or travelling. But, as the youth jobs crisis shows no signs of abating, temp jobs have become, in many cases, an option of last resort.

The use of temporary contracts for young workers has nearly doubled since the onset of the economic crisis and young people in developed economies are far more likely than adults to be temporary employees.

Ekkehard Ernst, who heads the ILO’s Employment Trends Unit, says increases in temporary work have been particularly strong in countries hit hard by the Euro crisis

“In the European Union we see that temporary workers – or temporary contracts – are very prevalent among young people, more than among the adult population. Younger people face up to 70 per cent temporary contracts in comparison to 20 per cent for adults”, he said.

In addition, countries affected by the crisis have seen rapid increases in temporary employment since the beginning of the crisis, up to 13 percentage points in Ireland and around two-and-a-half percentage points in Spain, added Ernst.

The youth jobs crisis is so acute that there is even fierce competition for temporary jobs, a situation that will likely continue for some time

“In the current situation many young people will certainly see temporary employment as the only way to move into the labour market and will certainly continue to compete very strongly for these jobs. As long as the recovery is not taking hold more firmly, this situation will not change.”

“In fact, global economic conditions are set to worsen again, and in the European Union for instance, we are expecting another round of recession conditions by the end of the year.”

Employers turn to a temporary work force as a means of cutting costs, especially in times of economic crisis

“Businesses are very interested in crisis times to hire only temporary workers because of the uncertainties they face for their revenues and demand conditions.”

“They typically prefer to hire temporary workers over permanent staff as they are likely to see layoffs coming up quite quickly if demand conditions change. In addition, temporary workers have typically less social security and less access to training so this makes them cheaper to businesses.”

One of the problems that young people face is that they often can’t get permanent contracts due to their lack of job experience

"Younger people have the problem that they have less skills and less labour market attachment which means that firms are reluctant to hire them on permanent contracts."

"Younger people actually run the risk of continuously being employed on temporary contracts with less developments for their career prospects and lower wage developments."

Governments need to come to the rescue to help improve prospects for young people

“It is for sure the case that governments need to encourage more the transition from temporary to permanent contracts. Governments can also help companies or encourage them to hire young people on a permanent contract.”

“In addition, they could set up tax incentives to allow younger people to be hired on permanent conditions and to reduce the difference that exists in terms of cost between temporary and regular employment.”

For more information, please contact ILO spokesperson Hans von Rohland +4122/799-7916,