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Contingent Employment in Europe and the United States

Edited by Ola Bergström and Donald Storrie

Contingent Employment in Europe and the United States examines the developments in labour markets in advanced economies in the 21st century, as regards contingent employment. This is defined as employment relationships that can be terminated with minimal costs within a predetermined period of time. This includes fixed-term contracts, temporary agency work and self-employment. Contingent employment has been the subject of much legislative activity in the last decade, at both the national and European level. Temporary agency work, in particular, has recently been extensively deregulated in most European countries and currently we await the fate of a proposed EU directive on agency work. The book is therefore highly topical.
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Chapter 2: Beyond atypicality

Ola Bergström


Ola Bergström1 There is no such thing as a common form of contingent employment. Legal definitions vary among countries. The phenomenon is labelled differently, depending on the perspective from which it is regarded: from the point of view of employers, workers, trade unions, governments and so on. Moreover, in academic literature the phenomenon is characterized in different ways according to the disciplinary perspective of the author. However, the most common element regarding contingent employment is that it is often referred to as different, atypical, alternative or non-standard. This chapter takes the view that contingent employment has its own character that should be understood in its own terms. Classifying contingent workers as atypical may be accurate considering the incidence in the labour market, but the classification of workers as atypical also has social consequences. Contingent workers are often regarded as having less value and in practice they are often provided with worse working conditions, salaries and benefits. They also have fewer opportunities to influence, affect working conditions and have their voice heard. Thus the classification of workers as atypical has effects on the way contingent workers are treated in workplaces, among co-workers, by trade unions and in labour law. Therefore there is a need to look for new ways of conceptualizing contingent employment beyond atypicality. Contingent employment relationships are different from traditional employment relationships in at least two ways. First, contingent employment relationships mean that both parties regard their...

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