Tracking the underemployed
A look at the underemployed -- part-time workers, temps, freelancers, contractors -- and how they fit into a labor market squeezed by a deepening recession.
They’re called many things in today’s job market: the part-time worker, the contingent worker, temporaries, distressed, discouraged, fill-ins, per diems, freelancers, permalancers and contractors. These workers make up a gray area in the labor market and many of them would like full time work, and the benefits that go with it, but can’t find those jobs.
As the first installment of a new series at "The Takeaway," hosts John Hockenberry and Adaora Udoji take a look at the underemployed and how they fit into a labor market squeezed by a deepening recession.
Paul Osterman, a professor of human resources and management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, is on "The Takeaway" to talk about how the unemployed are tracked: "So the official unemployment rate today is 6.5 percent. It's gone up substantially. If you add to that, people who are working part-time, or would like to have a full-time job, that's about another seven million people. And if you add to those folks, people who would like to find work but have given up, people we call 'marginally attached' to the labor force, you end up with a total -- what you might call underutilization rate -- of just under 12 percent. It nearly doubles the unemployment rate."
Osterman continues, "In the mid 1980s going forward, firms started looking for ways to, and there is a lot of euphamisms here, 'right-size,' 'down-size,' 'de-layer,' make more flexible their workforce. So, they used a variety of strategies--contingent work, temporary work is one, part-time works is another. A huge strategy that is very important is outsourcing. Instead of having your work done by employees on site, you hire another firm to do the work for you. All of these are ways to create more flexibility from the employer's perspective. But, from the worker's perspective, it creates much more uncertainty and insecurity. That has been a substantial trend."
According to Osterman, there are two critical issues facing people who are underemployed: Different kinds of employment arrangements creates ambiguity about who's the legally responsible employer; and the lack of health and pension insurance for this segment of the job market.
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