Use of temporary agency work increases sharply

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The first half of 1999 saw a substantial increase in the use of temporary agency work in Italy. Projections estimate that by the end of the year the number of temporary agency workers will stand at 200,000. Agency work is on the agenda of the social dialogue between the government and social partners in autumn 1999.

A survey carried out by the Association of Temporary Work Agencies (Assointerim) has found that 75,524 people worked as temporary agency workers in the first half of 1999 - a substantial increase from the figure of 52,312 for the whole of 1999. Each worker worked an average of 167 hours during the first half of 1999, and the total turnover of the agencies stood at ITL 395 billion (compared with ITL 268 billion in 1998).

These data confirm the increasing tendency to use temporary agency work (lavoro interinale), a form of employment which was only recently permitted in Italy (IT9804163N). "1999 will a year of important expansion ... the market trend shows that the 1998 data will be multiplied by four", declared Pino Cova president of Obiettivo Lavoro (a temporary work agency which has 15% of the market). According to Assointerim projections, at the end of 1999, some 200,000 workers will be involved in such work. Temporary agency workers are mainly young people (the average age is below 30 years), predominantly male (60% of the workers in 1999 are men) and employed in the mechanical and metalworking industries. Very often they are former unemployed people for whom the temporary employment relationship represents a first step towards a more secure place in the labour market: some projections made by the trade union confederations which have established temporary workers' associations (IT9807327F) indicate that about 20% of these workers are hired by the companies involved after one or more temporary contract.

The use of temporary agency work is limited to specific sectors because no agreements on its introduction have been concluded in other sectors, such as insurance and public administration.

Temporary agency work is used mainly in the northern regions of Lombardy (33% of all agency work), Piedmont (13%-14%), Veneto (12%) and Emilia Romagna (10%). Among the southern regions, the one that has most recourse to temporary work is Puglia.

These data have been published at a time when the government is on the point of negotiating with the social partners over the problematic issue of flexibility: part time work, fixed-term contracts and temporary agency work. The main controversial issues are the extension of the use of temporary agency work to unskilled workers (who up until now have been excluded) and a request by agencies to reduce the 5% levy on agency workers' wages, which is at present allocated to training temporary workers and to preventing accidents at work.

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