Staffing agencies arrange workers for limited term assignments at other organizations. The length of these assignments can vary greatly, with some being as short as a few hours while others lasting a year or more. One key difference between agency staffing and standard contract employment is that agency workers are paid by the agency, not the organization they are performing the work for. Agency workers are common across a variety of sectors, with the industrial sector and office support being generally the two largest. For example, these two sectors constitute over half the market in both the Netherlands and the United States. In 2018, Europe was the largest market for agency workers.
Agency work can be divided into two main types – contract work and temporary work. Temporary (or ‘temp’) agencies arrange workers at short notice for specific projects. Generally the projects will only last between one day and one week, with wages usually calculated hourly. Given the hourly wages and short-term nature of the assignments, rarely do temp workers receive benefits such as medical leave or paid holidays. While temp work does not provide a great deal of job security or choice to workers, it does provide both immediacy and flexibility, with many positions needing to be filled right away. Contract work differs from temporary work in that it has a longer duration, usually measured in months (but rarely more than a year). During this period workers are expected to work full days, and their wages are determined according to the contract length. Benefits are also more common (but not guaranteed) for contract workers.
Globally, the industry is dominated by three main multinational companies: Swiss firm Adecco, Dutch firm Randstad, and U.S. corporation ManpowerGroup. Each of these companies provides agency staffing, recruitment services, and a range of additional consulting and outsourcing options.