Fewer and shorter contracts for agency workers

The 2009 annual report of the bipartite training fund, Forma.Temp, reveals a major reduction of temporary agency workers (TAWs) in Italy compared with 2008 and earlier in the decade with fewer and shorter contracts. A strong decline in the provision of contracts for TAWs for younger workers and in training provision for TAWs (particularly basic and on-the-job training) suggests that new entrants to the labour market have been the most affected by the current recession.

A report (in Italian, 3.73Mb PDF) on the activities of Forma.Temp (the bipartite training fund for the temporary agency sector, IT0807019Q) in 2009 was published jointly by Forma.Temp and Ebitemp (the bipartite body for temporary work) in July 2010. The report summarises trends in the employment of temporary agency workers (TAWs) and the provision of training for TAWs in Italy.

Key trends

Numbers of temporary agency workers

The average number of TAWs increased in terms of the number of employees registered at the Italian National Institute of Insurance against Accidents at Work (INAIL) and in terms of full-time equivalents (FTEs) by over five and seven times respectively between 2000 to 2008 (Table 1) as part of the general increase of non-permanent employment in Italy (from 6.6% in 2000 to 13.8% in 2008). However, their numbers fell by -29.5% in 2009 (equivalent to a -36.4% drop in FTEs), confirming that non-permanent workers are the first to shoulder the burden of employment contraction. The strongest increase was reported for 2003 following the introduction of legislation which reduced constraints on TAWs and the activities of agencies.

Table 1: Temporary agency workers and contracts, 2000–2009
Year TAWs* Contracts FTEs Average months worked Average length of contracts
Average % variation Average % variation Average % variation
2000 112,532   154,026   34,371   3.67 2.68
2001 143,249 27.3 205,798 32.3 43,924 27.8 3.68 2.56
2002 214,054 49.4 334,643 64.2 67,554 53.8 3.79 2.42
2003 362,144 69.2 701,378 109.6 114,386 69.3 3.79 1.96
2004 400,410 10.6 865,045 23.3 138,014 20.7 4.14 1.91
2005 442,143 10.4 945,386 9.3 156,015 13.0 4.23 1.98
2006 515,973 16.7 1,096,669 16.0 186,676 19.7 4.34 2.04
2007 582,177 12.8 1,212,465 10.6 232,648 24.6 4.80 2.30
2008 582,493 0.1 1,195,354 -1.4 247,061 6.2 5.09 2.48
2009 410,694 -29.5 860,974 -28.0 157,100 -36.4 4.59 2.19

Notes: * From INAIL files.

Source: Ebitemp–Forma.Temp, 2010

Time worked and length of contract

The average number of months worked by TAWs increased from less than four months in 2000–2003 to over five months in 2008, declining to just above 4.5 months in 2009 (Table 1).

The average duration of contracts fluctuated during the 2000s. It declined from over 2.5 months in 2000 to less than two months in 2004–2005 before increasing to almost 2.5 months in 2008, only to fall back to 2.2 months in 2009 (Table 1).

Such divergences suggest that, while the pool of TAWs and their working opportunities increased at the expense of permanent contracts, the duration of their contracts fluctuated in line with the business cycle.

Age

In 2009, the reduction in the number of TAWs was particularly strong for younger workers (-36.8% for the 18–24 age group) (Table 2). The employment of those aged 65 and above even increased slightly, although their numbers are very small. Such differences are particularly striking as temporary agency work is seen as an important means of entry into the labour market; those aged below 30 accounted for 48% of all TAWs in 2008 (46% in 2009).

Table 2: Trends for temporary agency workers by age, 2008–2009
Age Average number % variation
2008 2009
Less than 18 628 240 -61.8
18–24 154,562 97,719 -36.8
25–29 126,266 89,863 -28.8
30–34 106,100 74,477 -29.8
35–39 77,360 56,827 -26.5
40–49 90,129 68,521 -24.0
50–64 26,968 22,554 -16.4
65 and over 481 492 2.3
Total 582,494 410,693 -29.5

Source: Ebitemp–Forma.Temp, 2010

Participation and length of training

A 1997 law requires temporary work agencies to devote 4% of their wage bill to training activities, which are managed by Forma.Temp. Monitoring of training provisions by Forma.Temp offers further insights into the situation of TAWs in Italy.

The decrease between 2008 and 2009 in both the average number of participants in training courses (-38.7%) and average hours of training (-38.1%) (Table 3) is higher than the decline between 2008 and 2009 in both the average number of TAWs and the average number of FTEs (Table 1).

The decline is most remarkable for so-called ‘basic training’ (-49.4% in terms of average number of participants, -44.7% in terms of average hours of training), that is, those training courses that aim to develop general skills and are usually offered to new entrants in the TAW pool. Almost equally striking is the decline in on-the-job training (-45% in terms of average number of participants, -46.7% in terms of average hours of training).

Table 3: TAWs participating in training by type of training, 2008–2009
Type of training 2008 2009 % variation
Average number of participants Average length (hours) Average number of participants Average length (hours) Average number of participants Average length (hours)
Basic 50,226 116,123 25,434 64,243 -49.4 -44.7
Professional 109,370 709,548 66,722 448,621 -39.0 -36.8
Continuing vocational training (CVT) 7,866 104,580 1,659 113,170 -78.9 8.2
On-the-job 23,182 601,398 12,758 320,612 -45.0 -46.7
Orientation 41,833 5,508 35,973 5,483 -14.0 -0.5
Total 232,477 1,537,157 142,546 952,129 -38.7 -38.1

Source: Ebitemp–Forma.Temp, 2010

Commentary

The 2009 annual report by Forma.Temp provides some interesting insights into how the economic crisis has hit temporary agency workers, who had been the fastest growing category of employees with non-permanent contracts in Italy in the 2000s. Employment cuts were severe both in terms of the numbers of employees and the duration of their contracts.

Such trends are confirmed by the 2010 labour market annual report of the Regional Agency of Work for the autonomous region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia in northeast Italy. While in general non-permanent contracts have declined in the region by 12.7% since 2007, apprentices and TAWs experienced the strongest reduction (-44.7% and -38.1%, respectively). However, other types of atypical contracts grew because of their lower costs: traineeships ( 81.1%), ‘bogus’ self-employed ( 24.4%) and on-call jobs ( 164.2%).

References

Ebitemp and FormaTemp, Rapporto di Attivà Forma.Temp 2009 (3.73Mb PDF), Rome, Forma.Temp, 2010.

Regione Autonoma Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Agenzia Regionale del Lavoro, Il mercato del lavoro in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Rapporto 2010 [Labour market in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. 2010 report], Milan, Agenzia Regionale del Lavoro, 2010.

Mario Giaccone, Ires

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