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L’éclatement de l’emploi traditionnel : Les défis posés par la diversité des emplois typiques et atypiques

Relations industrielles
Consortium Erudit
Publication Date
DOI: 10.7202/000141ar
  • Economics


During the past decades, the environment for organizations has become increasingly unpredictable. They are compelled to become more flexible, especially through the use of contingent employment (Cappelli et al. 1997). Statistics indicate a relative decrease of traditional employment over the past twenty years, whereas contingent employment has increased dramatically. This raises new issues for managers, workers, and society in general (Hipple 1998; Matte 1998; Simard 1998).Although numerous authors acknowledge the rapid growth of contingent employment (e.g., Betcherman 1995; Kochan et al. 1994; Lévesque 1999), little progress has been made toward the understanding of the complexity of the issues raised. One of the reasons for this is the absence of a common definition of contingent employment (Simard 1988), which renders comparisons among studies virtually impossible. Another problem is the heterogeneity of contingent workers (Eberhardt and Moser 1995; Simard 1998; Walsh and Deery 1999). This article posits that researchers and managers can only address the challenges posed by nonstandard employment if they comprehend the diversity of contingent employment. We therefore propose a typology of jobs and a typology of workers in order to better understand the reality of contingent employment.The first typology constitutes an attempt to classify jobs according to their features. Traditional employment is defined as a permanent position (i.e., an open-term contract), with a full-time, regular schedule, and where the work is being performed at the employer’s location. Contingent employment differs from this definition on four characteristics: the type of employment contract, the place of work, the number of hours worked, and the regularity of work schedules. These four characteristics constitute the four dimensions of our typology of jobs.Three types of employment contracts may be offered by an organization. The traditional employment contract, often referred to as permanent employment, does not stipulate any specific date for the termination of the employment relationship. The second type of contract indicates a specific date for the termination of employment and is often referred to as temporary employment. It provides more flexibility to the organization and less certainty for most workers. Finally, independent contracting is a situation in which the relationship ends upon the completion of specified tasks.The place where the work is performed is the second dimension of this typology. Whereas independent contractors have never performed their duties exclusively at their place of employment, permanent and temporary workers customarily did so. However, in recent years, the growth of telecommuting indicates that jobs are moving away from the employer’s premises.An employment contract may be based either on an averaged full-week of work (i.e., more than 35 hours of work) or on an averaged reduced-week of work, irrespective of the type of contract. The number of hours worked is only one dimension of the work schedule. The regularity of schedule is the other dimension, and this plays a crucial role in defining the certainty of earnings.These four dimensions allow us to profile 18 different forms of employment, of which only two can be described as traditional (permanent full-time and part-time). This typology emphasizes the fact that nonstandard employment may take a large variety of very different forms, which vary in terms of precariousness, task variety, and ability to reconcile work and private life.However, a typology of jobs does not suffice to capture the fact that individuals may hold more than one type of job. In order to understand the reality of contingent workers, a second typology is necessary. Multiple job holding is one dimension along which workers may differ. While most people with a permanent, full-time employment contract do not hold another job, many workers in a contingent position do hold more than one such position (Krahn 1995). Those workers may hold multiple positions simultaneously or successively, sometimes with a gap between each position. The duration of employment over a one-year period is therefore an important dimension to consider when categorizing contingent workers. The third dimension is the desirability of employment form. While some contingent workers may have chosen their employment status (e.g., permanent part-timers), workers in other forms of employment may be less likely to have chosen their particular status (e.g., full-time temporary workers). Studies indicate that the choice of status influences work-related attitudes and behaviours (Armstrong-Stassen, Horsburgh and Cameron 1994; Bishop, Okori-Dankwa and McKether 1993).A better understanding of the variety of contingent workers calls for more diverse and individualized human resource management practices in order to better serve the various needs of employees. For example, mobilization strategies aimed at involuntary temporary workers ought to be different than those targeting voluntary independent contractors. Companies using contingent employees must take account of these differences, while maintaining the equity in treatment that is necessary to foster harmonious work relationships. At the individual level, this paper highlights the fact that contingent workers experience a large variety of work situations, which differ in terms of certainty, desirability, skills development, and so on. When engaging on the path of contingent employment, workers must be aware of the opportunities and the risks that lie ahead. Last but not least, this article stresses the need for society as a whole to consider the consequences of the development of some second-class jobs with poor working conditions.

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