To get work done, organisations around the world increasingly use a wide variety of workers, including full- and part-time employees, apprentices, interns, online workers, franchises and, of course, contingent workers. Understanding this last category can help you decide how you want to compete in your marketplace.

Contingent work and workers are primarily distinguished by having an explicitly defined or limited tenure and are broken into the following four categories:

  • Temporaries/temporary agency workers.
  • Other temporaries
  • Independent contractors (ICs)
  • Statement-of-work (SOW) consultants

Agency. The terms used for workers sourced through a staffing agency can vary widely; a temporary employee in the US, maybe a temporary agency worker in Europe, or a temp in the UK or Australia, for example. In some countries, such as Germany and Sweden, the workers may be a fulltime employee of the agency and paid for their “benched time.” We estimate the size of this market was €268 billion in 2013 (the most recent year for which we have figures). This estimate is slightly smaller than previous estimates, as we have stripped out US and Canadian revenue to take into account the portion of contingents who are independent contractors (tax status of “1099” as opposed to “W-2” in the US).

Other. The “other” temporaries category includes include all temporary workers except workers supplied by a staffing agency. This can include workers from an internal pool, summer interns, seasonal workers, or even “crowd-sourced” workers. We estimate the global market value for this category at €475 billion. The US is the only major staffing market where the number of temporary agency workers is larger than the number of other types of temporary workers (2.6 million vs. 2.1 million). This is partly due to the low prevalence of W-2 employees under a fixed contract, though this is common in certain niches such as professional sports and television/film.

In Europe, other temporaries include agriculture workers, who make up roughly 4% of all other temporary workers. However, this figure is as high as 24% in Turkey or 22% in Romania. Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics generally excludes these workers.

ICs. Staffing Industry Analysts defines an independent contractor as a selfemployed individual performing services for a company under contract rather than as an employee, either on- or off-site. They may be referred to as freelancers, consultants and in the United States, “1099s” or zzp’ers in the Netherlands. Unlike employees, ICs are free to perform their work as they see fit. We estimate the market value for this category as €773.2 billion worldwide.

As ICs are not generally separated in national statistics, we have identified the number of ICs through the statistics for self-employed workers, without employees (own account workers), who are unincorporated and hold management, professional and related roles (International Standard Classification of Occupations codes 1 to 3). This is important because it helps separate out those self-employed individuals who are providing services to consumers and thus fall outside the above definition. It does mean, however, that our view of the ICs focusses on professionals.

SOW. The last of the four categories of contingent workers are statement- of-work (SOW) consultants. Defined as any consultant performing work on a project under a statementof- work arrangement. In contrast to agency consultants, SOW consultants are typically, but not always, given a regular, consistent salary by their employer and continue to receive this salary when off project assignments (i.e., “benched resource”). While SOW consultants are typically employed by consulting firms, a host of technologies and other staffing firms have also entered the solutions space for its greater premium margins (the theory being that you are paying for the firm’s proven methodology and chemistry of the team). At times, “rogue” line managers have used an SOW arrangement in order to avoid budget restrictions on the use of temporary workers or agency consultants.

The accompanying table (“The Major Markets for Contingent Work”) shows our total estimate for the global contingent market, excluding SOW, to be worth €1,516 billion. The largest market measured on this basis is the United States, which accounts for 19% of the global marketplace. The Japanese market is worth 11% and the United Kingdom 7%.

We estimate overall SOW consulting to be worth €807.43 billion, split broadly into four categories: information technology, management and marketing consultancy, law, and accountancy. Information technology is the largest category for SOW across all regions followed by accountancy, consultancy (combined) and law. The Americas is, by far, the largest region for SOW, responsible for just over a half of all SOW spend worldwide.

Combined, the four types of contingent work is an addressable market worth €2,323.6 billion in 2013, the majority of which has been untouched by traditional staffing firms.