Temporary work: IT people are real exotic and less qualified

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Jan Stenker’s, 36-year-old’s professional life is a constant coming and going, because the man from Hamburg is a temporary worker. His employer Gulp loaned him out to other companies for a limited period of time. For almost ten years, Stenker has been a temporary worker at various temporary employment agencies, in various deployment companies, mostly in IT support. “I slipped into job hopping and with every change it became more difficult to find a job outside of temporary work.” But now it seems to be working.

Stenker just finished his secondary school leaving certificate and then completed his training as an office communications clerk, including secondary school leaving certificate. “The vocational training was with an educational institution and training in social institutions have a bad reputation in the private sector if you apply there,” says Stenker. That’s why he couldn’t find a suitable job and ended up doing temporary work. Half a year here, three years there, in between repeatedly changing employers and in between several times unemployed for a few months. Temporary agency staff writes such résumés.

Temporary workers are brought in when they are needed. For projects in which there is little staffing, in order to smooth out peak workloads or as a longer illness representation. When they have done their job, they have to go again – and if there are no follow-up jobs in the temporary employment agency, they are on the street. Many temporary workers were hit during Corona.

According to statistics from the Federal Employment Agency, the number of temporary workers has fallen from 930,000 in 2018 by around 200,000 people. “There are several reasons for this, and the decline in the automotive industry was particularly strong,” says Wolfram Linke, spokesman for the Association of German Temporary Employment Companies. The maximum leasing period for temporary workers was set at 18 months, and after 9 months they must be paid in the same way as employees in the company in a comparable job. “That is why temporary workers are often no longer employed in the company after 9 months,” says Linke. Then Corona came and temporary work collapsed completely, “because before the companies dismiss their own employees, they send the temporary workers home,” said Linke. Temporary work is highly dependent on the economy and is a leading indicator for the economy.

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She is currently picking up again. In August there were around 722,000 temporary workers, 6,700 more than in the previous month and 80,000 more than in August last year. “About ten percent of temporary workers are academics and engineers, the largest group among them,” says Linke. IT people are estimated to be only a few thousand. In Linke’s opinion, this is due to the general lack of IT specialists and by no means the lower salary. Temporary workers are paid according to the tariff, with the exception of well-trained specialists from all branches of the economy, as well as IT staff. “They negotiate their wages freely, otherwise the temporary employment agencies would not find any IT employees,” says Linke. Many temporary workers are taken on during or after the projects by the companies in which they are deployed. “For skilled workers that is up to 70 percent,” estimates Linke. Temporary workers often have this hope of being hired.

Stenker too. “Several companies in which I was employed have offered to hire me.” He only accepted an offer once, but rejected it in all other cases because the company was not the right one for him. During his missions he is usually welcomed with open arms by his new colleagues and treated as one of them. “But everyone is always insecure because it can be easy that I won’t come back next week if the company no longer needs me.” At vocational school he was told that he had an affinity for IT and was encouraged to look for a job in this area. So it came to his first IT use many years ago, which has continued. Stenker is currently employed by Gulp – he doesn’t want to say who his employer has loaned him to. Temporary work does not have a good reputation and companies that employ such people do not want to make it public.

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Clemens Jansen is Senior Business Unit Manager at Gulp, he says: “During Corona there was no decrease in the need for IT specialists in temporary employment.” This group in particular was and is particularly in demand because IT experts are usually employed in the operational area in temporary employment. IT support and IT administration are very typical; both were used during home office and are urgently needed in the new hybrid forms of work. Which speaks for a continued high demand for IT staff in temporary work.

Jansen does not consider the maximum duration of 18 months for an assignment to be practicable, “because projects often take longer and temporary workers have to get out in the middle due to this requirement”. IT freelancers as an alternative are not necessarily the better choice in long projects. You may be employed in a company for an unlimited period of time, but then you may be threatened with bogus self-employment. “In addition, freelancers have a service contract that they fulfill without instructions,” says Jansen. Temporary workers are bound by the instructions. It’s a completely different form of collaboration.

Robert Half is another temporary agency company. Patrick Pieles is responsible for temporary employment throughout Germany. “IT temporary workers have very seldom completed a degree in computer science, at best dual training, for example to become an IT specialist. Often they are career changers or retraining.” The reasons why people go into temporary work are very different. These include newcomers and those returning to work who want to try out companies and tasks before they commit themselves or who are still unsure of what they want to do for a living. Some use temporary work as a stepping stone into permanent employment and for others, temporary work is an opportunity to gain practical experience and improve their chances on the job market. “The barriers to entry in temporary work are usually lower than in an application process for a permanent position,” says Pieles. The candidates then already have their foot in the door via temporary employment.

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It has already worked at Stenker. Now it looks like his assignment will end, but his employer Gulp has placed him as an employee at another company. Personnel service providers such as Gulp and Robert Half are also looking for employees on behalf of companies. So Stenker may now find a job outside of this branch indirectly through temporary work.


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