Is the Rise of Contract Workers Killing Upward Mobility?


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Employee cost is often looked as a sticky fixed expense. Having contract workers sounds like a solution. But, contracting might be costly for the company too.

Moreover, there is reason to believe that just as contract work is not a panacea for workers, it is also not a panacea for companies. “Contract workers have a fundamentally different relationship with the companies they work for than employees do,” says Gartenberg. “Just as companies under-invest in contractors, there are ample studies that suggest that contractors likewise under-invest in the companies. This could definitely hit the bottom line in areas like innovation and customer service.”

If we are in fact in the process of solidifying two distinct classes of workers — one employee in which firms invest, and another that is in a sense more disposable — what are we as a society losing?

“A lot,” says Gartenberg. “This is what the American Dream is built on — upward mobility. Contract work and outsourcing, among other factors, appear to be disrupting that engine, and it is not clear what the best policy response, if any, should be.”

The complete article

Knowledge@Wharton

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3 thoughts on “Is the Rise of Contract Workers Killing Upward Mobility?

  1. Wow. Seriously save that article and make back ups of it. Because it reminds me so much of a dream that I just had. Actually two dreams. “Another worker that is in a sense more disposable.” I am having heart palpatations. I had a dream with workers that I assume were contract workers. That is the one thing that I forgot to write in the dream, that they are contract workers. I think the word contract has become almost welded into our consciousness (pun intended) that we don’t even think of them as they are paid to do this. Or paid to do that. It is pretty scary. Even in wars contract workers are used to..fight wars! But we just assume that they are on our side. It’s ok.
    The dream I had was really frightening. But there are chinks the armor of anything. And even money. You are paid to do something and getting paid good that doesn’t mean that the something you are getting paid for is infallible. Or even safe, you could get killed. Like the contract workers that I saw in my dream. Killed by bees in a cotton candy pink tunnel.
    The other dream I had could apply to this article and contract workers. You need to try to get ahold of an old George Burns comedy show.
    All throughout the show there is a guy that will show up and you assume he is a character, like Kramer on Seinfeld or that big Oaf guy on Everyone Loves Raymond. This guy named Bill Goodwin is a hoot (but he doesn’t know it.) Maybe kind of a metaphor for the contract worker who thinks they are doing something great for the money but then it turns out to be not great.
    This guy is constantly interrupting the show to sell Carnation evaporated milk. I had a dream how the guy just went overboard on it, saying oh hey did you know Carnation milk, it even has a soul? And you know, one of the greatest moments of my life was when I got married, But do you know an even greater moment..The time I first bought carnation milk. He just keeps on with this until foam is practically coming out of his mouth.
    People have to begin to look at him like he is wacked out of his mind. The carnation milk guy was maybe the one that you say that firms want to invest in because he is a solid. But the dream showed me that even he was disposable. Just watch the Burns and Allen show and see how ridiculous that guy is (and he doesn’t know it.)

    I think this flaw in the contract worker mentality is something that the powers that be know about and that is why they are investing so much in artificial intelligence. I notice that you have an article as well about that. Good.

    *And it is pretty obvious that carnation milk is not a substitute for milk and whipped cream. Surprised that the guy doesn’t say, Oh you have a flat tire on the highway, don’t worry about it. Getting a new tire or fixing the flat. Just use carnation milk and it actually repairs the tire.

  2. I am glad you have that article. Because I see that Bill Goodwin type of guy a lot. Maybe I shouldn’t stereotype. But you see people like David Darst on MSNBC (he is a ringer for Bill Goodwin.)

    This could all just be a moving towards that Robocop thing. The machine that has a man’s consciousness.

    Could be.

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