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An independent contractor service provides a form of hired, usually short-term or temporary labor to corporations, small businesses, or individuals, covering a variety of professional occupations. Also known as consultants, independent contractors are becoming increasingly popular as companies can make use of their services without having to establish payroll tax or benefits for the worker. These benefits, as well as wages, are instead paid to the worker by the independent contractor service itself, for whom they officially work. Though many independent contractor services specialize in highly technical fields such as computer programming, some focus on the blue collar labor industry as well.
According to statistics compiled by the US Department of Labor, at least 8 million people in the United States classify themselves as independent contractors. This does not necessarily mean that the bulk of these people work for an independent contractor service; however, the term generally includes freelance and self-employed individuals who farm out their talents to companies on their own. Some estimates put the actual number of independent contractors in the US at closer to 25-30 million people when these broader definitions are factored in. By comparison, 18.5% of all workers in Australia, including workers in government and the private sector, are classified as some sort of self-employed independent contractor, with actual 2009 numbers being about 2 million people.
Finding work with an independent contractor service can be a bit tricky, as the definition of the term has undergone changes in recent years. These services used to be listed in standard phone book business sections under professional services, but they are also referred to now as recruiters, head hunters, information technology consultants, temporary employment agencies, and more. Many services have moved to the Internet as well and can be difficult to find locally.
The field of independent contracting continues to expand to more and more professions as many occupations lend themselves to remote workers and virtual offices. It is now possible to find everything from attorneys to dentists, translators to virtual assistants and web designers using an independent contractor service as their employer. Many people later bypass such agencies entirely when they find contract work on their own. The appeal of staying with an independent contractor service is that they can offer steady work and more affordable benefits, such as healthcare insurance, than an individual can obtain outright.
As the type of people who work for an independent contractor service expands across professional and political borders, the definition of the term becomes increasingly vague. It is now a catch-all concept describing non-traditional employer/employee labor agencies. Independent contractor services provide employees for everything from child care to construction, nursing, and call centers. Getting hired as an independent contractor, therefore, is in many cases becoming easier than finding a job as a regular employee.