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Problems Seen in Growing Use of Part-Timers

September 22, 1986|HENRY WEINSTEIN | Times Labor Writer

Increased hiring of part-time and temporary workers is creating a less stable work force that potentially threatens the U.S. economy, according to a new report by the National Assn. of Working Women, also known as 9 to 5.

"Some see the trend as a way to cut labor costs in an unstable economy and as an answer for working women seeking to balance both job and family," said Karen Nussbaum, executive director of 9 to 5. "But this increased flexibility is on management's terms, and it is eroding the full-time job base."

She said increased flexibility for management comes at the expense of workers who were left to cope with lower pay and a lack of benefits, pensions, job security and chances for advancement.

Nussbaum said many women working part time were not doing so voluntarily. A lack of child care facilities dictates part-time or temporary jobs as the only alternative for many mothers who need to work, she said.

"I think increasing part-time and temporary work is a shortsighted solution by management," Nussbaum said, and creates a large segment of working poor with little chance of advancement.

The group's report notes that since 1968, part-time employment in the United States has grown faster than full-time work.

The report stresses that the nature of temporary and part-time work has fundamentally changed in recent years. Employers are "reorganizing work on a core and ring basis, holding to a minimum the number of workers who can expect to have a future with the company and for whom the company is willing to provide health and insurance and retirements," according to a study by Temple University economist Eileen Appelbaum that was quoted in the report.

The report cites the following statistics, gathered from Bureau of Labor Statistics documents and other sources, to describe the magnitude of the growth of part-time and temporary work:

- In 1984, 22% of employed people worked part time by choice or by force of economic circumstance.

- The third-fastest growing industry in the economy today is the temporary help industry, increasing more than 19% a year since 1970.

- In 1985, 5 million people worked at temporary jobs.

- In 1985, one out of five new jobs was held by a part-timer who needed a full-time job.

- Two-thirds of part-time workers are female, working mostly as clericals, sales workers and lower-paid service workers. Women make up 62% of all temporary workers, employed primarily as clerical workers.

Sam Sacco, executive vice president of the National Assn. of Temporary Services, said he disagreed with 9 to 5's conclusions, but he acknowledged that there is a significant shift in the nature of temporary work.

He said employers are no longer using temporaries just to replace a receptionist who became ill--"the classic image of the Kelly Girl."

Now, Sacco said, employers are planning for peaks of production and sales during the year and hiring part-time and temporary workers based on those needs.

Mitchell Fromstein, president of Milwaukee-based Manpower Inc., the nation's largest temporary help services company, said the number of people his company placed in jobs rose 18% between 1984 and 1985. He said there was an even greater percentage increase in part-time employees who were hired directly by companies.

He said many women in their early 30s who had worked for a while, then stopped working to have children, are now re-entering the job market. "A lot of them won't take a permanent job, but they do want income."

Fromstein said these women "have a much richer educational and experience background" than women did 10 years ago. "In the old days, you'd call someone in as a temporary as a last resort; it's different today."

The 9 to 5 report said these workers may be considered more desirable, but because they don't have full-time jobs they receive lower pay than they deserve and often don't get fringe benefits. Part-time workers, on average, earned about 57.7% of the hourly wage of full-time workers, $4.50 an hour in 1984, compared to $7.80 an hour for full-time work, according to the report.

The fact that many part-time and temporary jobs do not include fringe benefits is disturbing, according to Audrey Freedman, a labor economist at the Conference Board, a business research organization in New York. "Most part-time workers are women, and employers think of women as a secondary labor force, so the jobs don't carry benefits," Freedman said.

Freedman agreed with 9 to 5 that a fundamental change in work structure was occurring but took issue with some of the group's conclusions.

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