Nonstandard Work Arrangements


While the standard employment relationship is generally considered a full-time employee, employers often hire workers as independent contractors, on a part-time or temporary basis, and through labor market intermediaries—such as temporary help agencies or contract companies. Much evidence indicates that employers in the United States and in many other countries have increasingly relied on nonstandard work arrangements in order to gain hiring flexibility and to trim costs. The apparent growth of nonstandard work arrangements has raised concerns about their implications for workers’ wages and benefits, job stability, and protection under various government workplace regulations.


  • How do wages and benefits for those in nonstandard arrangements compare to those of comparable workers in regular, full-time arrangements?
  • Are nonstandard work arrangements viable paths to stable employment for dislocated or low-skilled individuals?
  • Are workers in nonstandard arrangements adequately covered by social safety nets, including unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation, and by health and safety regulations?
  • Do employers hire more productive employees when they use temp-to-perm arrangements?

Selected Institute Research

"Temporary agency work: Temporary agency work is not generally a stepping-stone to regular employment"
Susan N. Houseman, Upjohn Institute
IZA World of Labor 2014: 27

"Manufacturers' Outsourcing to Staffing Services"
Matthew Dey, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Susan Houseman, Upjohn Institute
Anne Polivka, Bureau of Labor Statistics
ILR Review 65(3): 533-559, 2012

“Do Temporary-Help Jobs Improve Labor Market Outcomes for Low-Skilled Workers? Evidence from ‘Work First’”
David Autor, MIT
Susan Houseman, Upjohn Institute
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 2(3): 96-128, 2010

What Do We Know about Contracting Out in the United States? Evidence from Household and Establishment Surveys
Matthew Dey, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Susan Houseman, Upjohn Institute
Anne Polivka, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Upjohn Institute Working Paper No. 09-157, 2nd Revision, September 2009

Nonstandard Work in Developed Economies: Causes and

Susan Houseman, Upjohn Institute, editor
Machiko Osawa, Japan Women’s University, editor
Upjohn Institute Press, 2003

More Institute Research about Nonstandard Work Arrangements