California temp workers are twice as likely to be poor, study says

California temporary workers are twice as likely to live in poverty than direct-hire employees, according to a UC Berkeley study released Tuesday.

Temp workers, who are hired at reduced wages by staffing agencies, rely more on state aid to supplement their income, the study found.

And work opportunities are fraught with fewer employee protections and greater job insecurity, wrote the study’s author, Miranda Dietz, a research data analyst for the Center for Labor Research and Education at the university.

The rise in temporary workers has accelerated since the 1990s as employers try to cut labor costs. To do so, they have turned to temporary staffing agencies to fill a variety of positions: from secretarial work, housekeeping and warehousing jobs.

In California, about 250,000 people worked in the temporary help services industry in 2010; another 37,000 worked for employee leasing firms.


These temporary workers make far less money and often don’t have health insurance or other benefits, Dietz found.

Median hourly wages for temp workers is $13.72 compared to $19.13 for their non-temp counterparts between 2008 and 2010, according to the report.

Dietz also reported that 18.8% of temp workers live in poverty, compared to 8.9% of non-temp workers.

“Temporary and subcontracted arrangements erode wages,” Dietz wrote. “These lowered wages mean that contingent workers rely more on the state safety net. Temps in California were twice as likely as non-temps to live in poverty, receive food stamps, and be on Medicaid.”

Many businesses rely on temporary staffing agencies to find and hire workers to meet seasonal demands the report said, thereby reducing search costs.

But such employment arrangements erode wages and make it difficult for employees to file workplace grievances since they do not have direct ties to a company they provide services to, Dietz said.


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