This is the area most directly related to my doctoral research which focused around different national employment systems, particularly focusing on the temporary staffing industry and the different interactions it has with national and international institutions. This study was focused on the European region withthree case study countries the UK, Germany and the Czech Republic:

The Institutional Context for Temporary Staffing: A European Cross-national Comparative Approach


Since the early 1990s the temporary staffing industry experienced rapid growth in many areas of Europe, although the extent and rate of this growth varied across the continent. The existing literature on labour market intermediaries and the temporary staffing industry fail to adequately address the importance of national institutional arrangements. This thesis addresses the research lacuna by providing a comparative study of temporary staffing industries in three different political-economic contexts: the United Kingdom, Germany and the Czech Republic. This contributes to a greater understanding of the role of the temporary staffing industry in each country, how it is structured, and the key institutions involved.These three case studies profile the size and characteristics of each temporary staffing industry but also discuss the key institutions present in each case, and the relationships which drive or restrict its change. This thesis includes analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data to provide a detailed picture of each national temporary staffing industry. The research reveals three nationally distinctive formations of the temporary staffing industry within the context of the European Union.While the UK has the largest temporary staffing industry in Europe, it remains highly fragmented. With an established presence in many sectors of the labour market the industry seeks to increase its presence in professional occupations, and its collaboration with public employment services. While the temporary staffing industry in Germany has experienced significant growth since 2003, resistance remains from the trade unions against the use of temporary agency work, and the state remains greatly involved in determining working conditions. The presence of collective bargaining between the trade unions and trade associations remains a key relationship in this system. The temporary staffing industry in the Czech Republic is still in the early stages of growth and as such regulations are still being formulated, and agencies are still establishing branch networks in an environment where a large number of informal agencies are already present.While temporary staffing agencies and trade associations remain active in pursuing growth for the temporary staffing industry, the extent to which these changes took place varied between countries. This thesis argues the form of each national temporary staffing industry is a reflection of the complex historical, and contemporary, national institutional arrangements, and as such, its form and role varies.

The full PhD thesis is available here. The

Publications related to this project include:

This contributes to the work of the Geographies of Temporary Staffing Unit at the University of Manchester. At present I have produced a series of working briefs on a few issues which have stemmed from my research.

  • Watts, J. (2012) ‘The Financial Crisis in Europe and Temporary Staffing’.
  • Watts, J. (2011) ‘Developments in Latin America: The Temporary Staffing Industry in Brazil’.
  • Watts, J. (2011) ‘The Italian Temporary Staffing Market’.
  • Watts, J. (2011) ‘China and the Temporary Staffing Industry’.
  • Watts, J. (2011) ‘European Temporary Staffing: The Changing Regulatory Landscape’.
  • Watts, J. (2010) ‘National Temporary Staffing Markets in Europe: Three case studies’.
  • Watts, J. (2010) ‘Varieties of Capitalism’.

All available at:

I have continued to develop this work by focusing on the different regulatory frameworks the temporary staffing industry is developing in, as well as exploring how the temporary staffing industry is developing in markets beyond Europe (in particular the BRICS countries). Presentations on this work at both an ESRC seminar on employment regulation and an ILO Conference on regulating decent work have now been transformed into papers and will be available in the near future. 

While this particular project has focused on temporary agency work as a specific form of non-standard employment I am interested in labour market change more generally and the different forms of non-standard employment and labour markets. This relates to my broader interests in varieties of capitalism, labour market systems and institutional change.