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World – 46 million agency workers globally

27 March 2013

46 million people around the world are placed as agency workers by staffing companies each year, a new report showed today by the international confederation of private employment services (Ciett). The number is estimated to be equivalent to 12.4 million full time jobs.

“46 million people is only a small percentage of the world’s working population. However, our industry plays an important role in the labour market by contributing to a better and faster match between the supply and demand of work,” said Ciett President, Fred Van Haasteren.

The Agency Work Industry around the World report shows again that the staffing industry is a leading economic indicator as the number of agency workers changes in line with GDP fluctuations. “Agency work jobs are often the first to go during periods of crisis, but when economic recovery does begin, they are the first jobs to be created,” said Ciett managing director, Denis Pennel.

Staffing markets across the world reached a low point during the global recession in the second quarter of 2009. There has since been a gradual recovery, especially in the US last year, while in Europe the staffing industry contracted again in January 2012, mirroring flagging GDP trends.

Temporary hiring through staffing firms is dropping at an annual double-digit percentage rate, said Mr Pennel. “We still see that the number of agency workers being employed is decreasing in most of the European countries,” he told Dow Jones Newswires. According to his estimates, employment in the staffing industry is plummeting across Europe by up to 15% year-on-year.

According to Ciett, the staffing industry is worth €259 billion. 140,000 private employment agencies operate worldwide and employ 863,000 staff internally across 179,000 branches. The United States is the largest single market accounting for 23% of global annual sales revenues, followed by Japan (17%) and the UK (11%). The combined sales revenue of European countries make up 41% of global turnover, making it the largest region in the world, ahead of Asia/Pacific (25%) and North America (24%).

Ciett argues that staffing companies help to integrate people in the labour market. In South Africa for example, 60% of people entering agency work were previously unemployed, while after one year of agency work only 8% had returned to unemployment. The staffing industry is also a young industry with 57% of workers aged 30 or below in Europe. “This is in keeping with the industry’s position as an entry point to the labour market for many young people and a stepping stone into permanent contracts,” the association said.

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