Google’s Shadow Work Force: Temps Who Outnumber Full-Time Employees

The reliance on temporary help has generated more controversy inside Google than it has at other big tech outfits, but the practice is common in Silicon Valley. Contingent labor accounts for 40 to 50 percent of the workers at most technology firms, according to estimates by OnContracting, a site that helps people find tech contracting positions.

OnContracting estimates that a technology company can save $100,000 a year on average per American job by using a contractor instead of a full-time employee.

“It’s creating a caste system inside companies,” said Pradeep Chauhan, who runs OnContracting.

In statements to The Times, Google did not directly address concerns that it had created a two-tiered work force, but said it did not hire contractors simply to save money.

Eileen Naughton, Google’s vice president of people operations, said that if a contingent worker “is not having a good experience, we provide lots of ways to report complaints or express concerns.”

She added, “We investigate, we hold individuals to account and we work to make things right for any person impacted.”

When Google became a public company in 2004, its founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, wrote that they believed in rewarding employees with unusual benefits because “our employees, who have named themselves Googlers, are everything.”

But not everyone doing work for Google over the years has been a Googler. The company has been using temps and contractors since its early years in projects like scanning books for online search. According to one former Google employee, temps and contractors accounted for about a third of the work force about a decade ago, and that share has steadily climbed.

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