NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 18, 2006

Long taboo to European labor unions and governments, part-time work and temporary jobs are becoming by far the richest source of new jobs across Europe, says John Tagliabue of the New York Times.

Even though Europe has about twice the unemployment rate of the United States, since 2001, employment growth for both part- and full-time jobs has been faster in Europe than in the United States. If you take the whole of Europe, it's the old Europe that has a problem: Germany, Italy and France; countries like Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain have had greater success in job creation, says Tagliabue.

A closer look at the numbers suggests that this is because the explosion of part-time and temporary work has lifted job growth, says Tagliabue:

  • Government make-work programs in Germany, introduced during the last two years to subsidize part-time and temporary jobs, largely had failed to dent the jobless statistics.
  • Manpower -- the world's biggest temporary staffing company -- operates more than 1,130 agencies in France, which place about 2 million people a year; last year, revenues there were €4.5 billion ($5.4 billion) more than in the United States, where the company is based.
  • In France, Germany and Italy, more than 12 percent of people working have temporary contracts, in Spain, the figure is more than 30 percent and in the Netherlands, it is 15 percent.

However, the downside to this reshuffling of the labor market is the creation of a two-tier economy with older workers who have lifetime jobs and younger workers who move to new jobs at least once a year, says Tagliabue.

Therefore, business leaders and economists agree that part-time work is not the ultimate solution; instead, the permanent labor contract should be reformed, says Tagliabue.

Source: John Tagliabue, "Europe jobs not what they were," International Herald Tribune, May 11, 2006.

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