RM Director Nick Walrond takes a look at what benefits a successfully growing flexible labour pool can do for both German business and employees alike

In recent months, news from Germany has shown that temporary staffing levels have risen, skills shortages are decreasing and external investment is on the up – all of which are signs of a growing and robust economy.

Of particular interest to RM, which opened its first office in Munich in March, was a report by the Federal Employment Agency that temporary workers now account for 2.5% of Germany’s total workforce and the figure has doubled in the last 10 years to hit the circa 882,000 mark.

Temporary workers are important for a growing economy in many ways but perhaps the key benefit for a country as a whole is that they are integrated into the labour market, acting as a cushion during periods of growth and/or uncertainty.

For example, according to Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s Minister for Economics, key areas of the German economy, especially the industrial sector, have been challenged by international competition as well as large variations in order volumes, which means use of temporary workers provides structure for the ebb and flow of workstreams.

Often, because temporary employment reacts quickly to changes in economic conditions, it becomes a reliable early indicator of the performance of the labour market as a whole.

In countries where labour markets are flexible, workers find jobs more easily and, if need be, employers can change staffing quotas. The opposite is often true as those without these freedoms in worker movement can cause divides amongst permanent employees and those on fixed-term contracts.

In the UK recruitment industry we like to think our workforce has one of the best flexible working environments in the world – with circa 5% of our workforce operating in this way at any one time. Last year, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation produced a report that working on a temporary basis is part of many people’s career paths.

They found that more than one in three people (36%) in Great Britain have worked as a contractor, freelancer or agency worker at some point in their career, and 41% are considering working that way in the future.

So in terms of the future picture for German temporary workers this can be viewed as good news.

At the less skilled end of the picture, temporary work gives people experience and insight. In particular it provides the unemployed, young professionals or professionals returning to the labour market an opportunity to get a foot in the door.

At the other, higher skilled, end of the market, it means that contractors are in a stronger position in terms of what jobs they take on and how much they can charge.

Altogether, this is an exciting time for Germany and it will be interesting to see how both Government and employers will work together to maximise the opportunities that a growing temporary workforce provides.

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