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Flexibility Trap: The Proliferation of Marginal Jobs

Temporary and part-time jobs may be penny-wise for employers, but pound-foolish for the economy.

Full-time, career employment is fast becoming an anachronism in today's changing economy. Since 1973, the rate of part-time, temporary, and subcontracted employment -- what labor market analysts call "contingent" employment -- has grown far faster than the rate of full-time work. Nearly one in five workers today works part-time while the temporary help industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy. Close to 30 million people -- over a quarter of the U.S. labor force -- are working in jobs outside the regular full-time work force. And while a significant number are well-paid freelancers, most contingent workers are women and minorities clustered in low-wage jobs with no benefits or opportunities for advancement. The expansion of contingent employment is evidence of a fundamental transformation of work. These changes are driven, in part, by business's need for flexibility in a changing, competitive economy. But while the word "flexibility" connotes more creative...