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The Geographies of Temporary Staffing Unit (GOTSU)

GOTSU brings together a unique group of researchers at a number of universities around the world who are together exploring the multiple geographies that lie behind the ongoing global expansion and restructuring of the temporary staffing industry.

The industry consists of temporary staffing agencies, which are labour market intermediaries that supply client organisations with (usually short-term) contract workers of many kinds.

The geographies that concern us play out at various interconnected spatial scales:

  • The global expansion strategies of leading agencies
  • The facilitation of migrant worker movements across national borders
  • Attempts to regulate temporary staffing at the EU level
  • The formation of distinctive national markets as transnational agencies interact with regulatory regimes
  • The unique local, urban scale geographies of labour supply and demand mediated by temporary staffing agencies

GOTSU is leading research into these complex geographies, and more broadly, this website is intended as a focal point and showcase for independent academic research on the industry.

Central to all our research is the contention that staffing agencies are active labour market intermediaries with considerable power to shape labour markets at various spatial scales, through both their everyday activities of placing workers across a wide range of job types and industries, and their collective lobbying activities. As such, their growth has had economy-wide implications: in a growing number of economies the temporary staffing industry has been at the leading edge of systemic changes in the employment contract.

Employment norms forged during the post-WW2 era around internal career progression, living wages, regular working hours and trade union representation have slowly been dismantled. In their place, an increasingly contractual form of capitalism is becoming normalized, with temporary staffing agencies at the centre of this new type of employment relationship.

GOTSU’s ongoing programme of research – funded variously in the past by the British Academy, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Leverhulme Trust, the Rockefeller Foundation, Vedior Corporation, the Adecco Institute, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and The University of Manchester – draws on quantitative industry data and a longitudinal series of semi-structured interviews with temporary staffing agencies, government officials, labour unions, trade associations and business analysts.

We have conducted empirical work in Australia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Japan, Poland, Sweden and the UK.