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HR Slang: Contingent Fringe

What's the definition of "contingent fringe?"  I first heard the term from Steve Youll, a HR Strategic Planning Analyst at Greif (maker of industrial packaging solutions) on The CYA Report, a podcast I lead over at Fistful of Talent (check out the episode with Steve that highlights a feature story on contingent labor at Workforce.com here, it drops on 8.6.12 - thanks for Workforce Sr. Editor Ed Frauenheim for joining me on the show).

Contingent Fringe is 1) the percentage of temps, contractors and freelancers in the American Fringe_ workforce, plus 2) people who are current full-time employees at a company who would likely have to join the contingent labor workforce should they lose their current full-time gigs.  

The term is Steve's, that defintion is mine.  If you're on the contingent fringe, you're either already a freelancer or highly likely to become a freelancer should you lose your current job.  Thus, you're on the fringe.  

The contingent fringe.

The percentage of the total workforce on the contingent fringe, as you might have guessed, is only going to get larger over time.  This Forbes article points to the fact that the total workforce of Fortune 100 companies is already 20-30% contingent, with that number growing to 45-50% by 2020.

Individual contributors - Get your marketing brochures warmed up.



Great article. I am a Recruiter that specializes in placing consultants/temporary workforce. It was refreshing you did not utilize the word "permanent" and used "full-time" employees instead. Almost on a daily basis I have to correct candidates asking me for a "permanent" job. I inform them, "there is no such thing as a "permanent" job anymore. I know of consultants that outlast "permanent" employees. So please take the word "permanent" out of your vocabulary when it pertains to jobs." At that moment, the candidates usually have a wow moment and agree with me. I do see the upswing of the contigent workforce. The landscape of the workforce has changed and everyone has to embrace the change. We need to start thinking and acting like consultants because one day the only job you might be able to find is a "contingent" one.

Michael Leitschuh


While I agree that the word "Permanent" needs to be removed from our vocabulary when referring to employment, the term "full-time" implies that the "contingent" workforce only works "part-time". The reality is that the contingent workforce usually works more hours per week because they are paid for every hour they work. I haven't come up with a better alternative and still use the term "Perm" because people understand what you are talking about. It's like the word "Klenex"...most tissues are not Klenex, but if you ask for one, people know what you want.

Beth Burstein

I generally use the word "Direct Employee" instead of permanent. The rest of us are a contractor (consultant). Most people think of a contractor as a carpenter or plumber; however, those of us that are not "Directs" are contractors.


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