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October 21, 2021

Is contract work becoming the new normal?

Although they say otherwise, many employers are moving towards a just-in-time workforce populated by temporary workers, contract staff and freelancers. 

Hoping to become more nimble and cut costs, both small and large firms are looking to balance staffing with fluctuating demand – avoiding overhead, benefits and job security at the same time.

And one of the biggest culprits is the federal government, says Public Service Commission president Maria Barrados in a recent report.

Spending on temporary help agencies hit $300 million last year, she claims; triple what departments spent a decade ago. The bulk of that was spent in the National Capital Region.

Unlike years ago, when temp agencies supplied clerical staff to backstop holidays, most of those being hired now are professionals looking after projects or work considered critical to a department's operations. But that’s not the case in the hinterland.

For many private sector workers, temporary jobs often translate into less pay, loss of health insurance and sick days, and anxiety over where their next pay cheque is coming from.

This explains why online freelance marketplaces like Elance and Guru are awash with graphic artists, web designers and programmers – all of whom seem willing to work for much less than the cost of traditional employees.

And things may even get a bit rockier.

Littler Mendelson, one of the largest employment law firms in the U.S., suggests that 50 per cent of new jobs that emerge after the recession will be contingent positions, and as a result as much as a third of the work force could be made up of temporary workers, contractors or other project-based labour.

Have you made the transition to the contingent world? Are you better or worse off as a contract worker? Is your business fuelled by temporary help?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...