Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 4 2007, page 63-78.
English resume

Temporary Agency Workers between Flexibility and Security

Søren Kaj Andersen

The concept fl exicurity first appeared in the Netherlands and from the very beginning it contained a focus on atypical employment; i.e. agency workers, fixed term employment and part-time employment. This is a significant difference compared to the Danish fl exicurity debate which has been focusing solely on the standard employment contract which is characterised by both the fl exible regulation of dismissals and a high level of security via relatively generous unemployment benefits and the active labour market policy. In the Dutch context the key question became how to increase security with regard to pay and working conditions for the fl exible atypical workers. Thus inspired by the Dutch approach to fl exicurity it is in this article discussed whether Danish temporary agency workers in the same way are covered by fl exicurity. Furthermore, it is discussed why the number of agency workers have increased significantly on the Danish labour market which is especially surprising due to the fl exible regulation of hiring and firing.
It is concluded that since the early 1990s wages and working conditions for temporary agency workers in Denmark have become normalised, meaning that security have been increased in the broadest sense for agency workers. Consequently, with regard to the substantial regulation we can by and large identify an identical development compared to the regulation of the employment relationship for Dutch agency workers. In this sense Danish agency workers is covered by ‘Dutch fl exicurity’. However, focussing on the processes leading to these changes in regulation in respectively the Netherlands and Denmark there are significant differences. In the Netherlands these changes of regulation were part of a larger political compromise involving among other things the fl exibilisation of standard contracts. Further, both labour market organisations and the political system were involved in the process. In Denmark the changes in regulation for agency workers were introduced in an incremental way solely via sector level collective bargaining. Accordingly, the process of changes was less dramatic in the Danish case. Likely explanations for these divergences between the Dutch and the Danish cases are first, the relatively larger number of temporary agency workers, and other atypical workers in the Netherlands and second, the differences in the industrial relation systems in respectively the Netherlands and Denmark.

Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv

(Journal for Working Life)




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