International Review of Economics

, Volume 65, Issue 3, pp 359–379 | Cite as

How important is the type of working contract for job satisfaction of agency workers?

  • René Petilliot
Research Article


Previous research finds that agency workers are less satisfied with their job than regular workers. This paper analyzes whether this difference can be explained by the duration of the working contract agency workers are employed on. The analysis leads to three results. First, agency workers’ contract type does not explain their lower job satisfaction. Second, agency workers on permanent contracts are significantly less satisfied with their job than regular workers on the same contract. Third, agency workers on fixed-term contracts do not differ in job satisfaction from regular workers on both fixed-term and permanent contracts. The difference in job satisfaction between permanently employed agency and regular workers can partly be explained by changes in the reference point. Overall, the results, however, lend support to the conclusion that agency workers on fixed-term contracts regard their employment as stepping stone while those on permanent contracts appear to be trapped in this type of employment.


Job satisfaction Temporary agency employment Fixed-term contracts Permanent contracts 

JEL Classification

C23 I31 J28 J41 



The author would like to thank two anonymous referees, Andrew E. Clark, Caterina Giannetti, Anthony Lepinteur, Christoph Metzger, as well as participants of the Workshop on Subjective Survey Data in Labour Market Research (IAAEU Trier), the 13th Workshop on Social Economy for Young Economists (University of Bologna), the Doctoral Seminar in Public Finance and the Walter Eucken Seminar of Empirical Economics (both at University of Freiburg) for review, discussions, and excellent input that improved the paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


  1. Addison JT, Surfield C (2006) The use of alternative work arrangements by the jobless: evidence from the CAEAS/CPS. J Lab Res 27(2):149–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Antoni M, Jahn E (2009) Do changes in regulation affect employment duration in temporary help agencies? Ind Labor Relat Rev 62(2):226–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arulampalam W, Booth A (1998) Training and labour market flexibility: is there a trade-off? J Ind Relat 36(4):521–536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Autor DH, Houseman SN (2008) Temporary agency employment: a way out of poverty? In: Blank R, Danziger S, Schoeni R (eds) Working and poor: how economic and policy changes are affecting low-wage workers, chapter 11. Russell Sage Foundation, New York, pp 312–338Google Scholar
  5. Autor DH, Houseman SN (2010) Do temporary-help jobs improve labor market outcomes for low-skilled workers? Evidence from "Work First". American Econ J Appl Econ 2(3):96–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baetschmann G, Staub KE, Winkelmann R (2015) Consistent estimation of the fixed effects ordered logit model. J R Stat Soci Ser A 178(3):685–703CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Böheim R, Cardoso AR (2009) Temporary help services employment in Portugal. 1995–2000. In: Autor DH (ed) Studies in labor market intermediation. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 309–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Booth A, Francesconi M, Frank J (2002) Temporary jobs: stepping stones or dead ends? Econ J 112(480):189–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Buddelmeyer H, McVicar D, Wooden M (2015) Non-standard ‘contingent’ employment and job satisfaction: a panel data analysis. Ind Relat J Econ Soc 54(2):256–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bundesagentur für Arbeit (BA), Arbeitsmarktberichterstattung (2018) Der Arbeitsmarkt in Deutschland—Zeitarbeit—Aktuelle Entwicklungen, Februar 2018, NürnbergGoogle Scholar
  11. Burda M, Kvasnicka M (2006) Zeitarbeit in Deutschland: trends und Perspektiven. Perspektiven der Wirtschafspolitik 7(2):195–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Busk H, Dauth C, Jahn E (2017) Do changes in regulation affect temporary agency workers’ job satisfaction? Ind Relat 56(3):514–544CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chadi A, Hetschko C (2016) Flexibilization without hesitation? temporary contracts and job satisfaction. Oxf Econ Pap 68(1):217–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. CIETT (2017) Economic report 2017. Brussels. Accessed 28 March 2018
  15. Clark AE (1997) Job satisfaction: why are women so happy at work? Lab Econ 4(4):341–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Clark AE (2001) What really matters in a job? hedonic measurement using quit data. Lab Econ 8(2):223–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Clark AE, Oswald AJ (1994) Unhappiness and unemployment. Econ J 104(424):648–659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. D’Addio AC, Rosholm M (2005) Exits from temporary jobs in Europe: a competing risk analysis. Lab Econ 12(4):449–468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. D’Addio AC, Eriksson T, Frijters P (2007) An analysis of the determinants of job satisfaction when individuals’ baseline satisfaction levels may differ. Appl Econ 39(19–21):2413–2423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. De Cuyper N, de Jong J, de Witte H, Isaksson K, Rigotti T, Schalk R (2008) Literature review of theory and research on the psychological impact of temporary employment: towards a conceptual model. Int J Manag Rev 10(1):25–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. De Graaf-Zijl M (2012) Job satisfaction and contingent employment. De Economist 160(2):197–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Green CP, Heywood JS (2011) Flexible Contracts and Subjective Well-being. Econ Inq 49(3):716–729CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Green CP, Leeves G (2004) Casual employment and internal labour markets. Manch Sch 72(5):658–676CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hamermesh DS (2001) The changing distribution of job satisfaction. J Hum Resour 36(1):1–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hamersma S, Heinrich C, Mueser P (2014) Temporary help work: compensating differentials and multiple job-holding. Ind Relat 53(1):72–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hopp C, Minten A, Toporova N (2016) Signaling, selection and transition: empirical evidence on stepping-stones and vicious cycles in temporary agency work. Int J Hum Resour Manag 27(5):527–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. ILO (1997) Convention concerning Private Employment Agencies, C181—Private Employment Agencies Convention, No. 181, Article 1.1.b.,P55_LANG,P55_DOCUMENT,P55_NODE:CON,en,C181,%2FDocument. Accessed 9 Feb 2016
  28. Jahn E (2010) Reassessing the pay gap for temps in Germany. J Econ Stat 230(2):208–233Google Scholar
  29. Jahn E (2015) Don’t worry, be flexible?—job satisfaction among flexible workers. Aust J Lab Econ 18(2):147–168Google Scholar
  30. Kassenboehmer SC, Haisken-DeNew JP (2009) You’re fired! The causal negative effect of entry unemployment on life satisfaction. Econ J 119(536):448–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Matusik SF, Hill CWL (1998) The utilization of contingent work, knowledge creation, and competitive advantage. Acad Manag Rev 23(4):680–697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Morris MD, Vekker A (2001) An alternative look at temporary workers, their choices and the growth of temporary employment. J Lab Res 22(2):1061–1077CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nienhüser W, Matiaske W (2006) Effects of the ‘principle of non-discrimination’ on temporary agency work: compensation and working conditions of temporary agency workers in 15 european countries. Industrial Relations Journal 37(1):64–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Origo F, Pagani L (2009) Flexicurity and job satisfaction in Europe: the importance of perceived and actual job stability for well-being at work. Labour Economics 16(5):547–555CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rosen S (1974) Hedonic prices and implicit markets: product differentiation in pure competition. J Polit Econ 82(1):34–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schäfer H (2012) Temporary agency work in the SOEP: Coping with data quality problems. SOEP papers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 454, The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), BerlinGoogle Scholar
  37. Souza-Poza A, Sousa-Poza AA (2003) Gender differences in job satisfaction in Great-Britain, 1991–2000: permanent or transitory? Appl Econ Lett 10(11):691–694CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wagner GG, Frick JR, Schupp J (2007) The German socio-economic panel study (SOEP)—scope, evaluation and enhancements. J Appl Soc Sci Stud 127(1):139–169Google Scholar
  39. Wilkin CL (2013) I can’t get no job satisfaction: meta-analysis comparing permanent and contingent workers. J Org Behav 34(1):47–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Winkelmann L, Winkelmann R (1998) Why are the unemployed so unhappy? Evidence from panel data. Economica 65(257):1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wooden M, Warren D (2004) Non-standard employment and job satisfaction: evidence from the HILDA survey. J Ind Relat 46(3):275–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Public Finance and Social Policy, Research Center for Generational ContractsUniversity of FreiburgFreiburg i. Br.Germany

Personalised recommendations