By Bilal Hafeez 27-12-2019

Louis Hyman, “Temp: How American Work, American Business, And The American Dream Became Temporary” (New Books In Economics)

(1 hr 14 min listen)
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Summary (You can listen to the podcast by clicking here)

Louis Hyman, Professor of History at Cornell University and formerly of McKinsey unravels the decline of steady work in his latest book, Temp.

• Hyman has sifted through thousands of archives from McKinsey, Apple, and HP, etc., and examines three worlds of labour: consultancy, temporary labour, and migrant labour.

• In the modern-day structure, the management consultant’s role is paramount in optimising inefficiencies in the corporate structure and to bring focus to core activity.

• Amid this changing corporate backdrop, temporary work (initially tailored to married white women) has gradually been incorporated into all sections of the workforce.

• The rise of temporary workers began with the technological innovations of the computer (eg in data entry for IBM) but more recently, there has been a new wave in industries such as package delivery, taxi services, and food delivery services. These have drawn wide criticism due to perceived infringements of worker rights and benefits.


Why does this matter? This is the first decade in which every year unemployment rate has fallen in the US. However, whilst a large percentage of the population is employed, more and more are struggling to obtain full time, permanent work. Long gone are the days of the union’s power; entire assembly lines can be replaced at click of a button. Temporary work is a major factor behind the increased the number of strikes witnessed in the USA this year and the global trend of increasing temp work that is outsourced poses a significant risk for economic activity.



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