The most common form of wage labour currently is ordinary direct, or "full-time". This is employment in which a free worker sells his or her labour for an indeterminate time (from a few years to the entire career of the worker), in return for a money-wage or salary and a continuing relationship with the employer which it does not in general offer contractors or other irregular staff. However, wage labour takes many other forms, and explicit as opposed to implicit (i.e. conditioned by local labour and tax law) contracts are not uncommon. Economic history shows a great variety of ways, in which labour is traded and exchanged. The differences show up in the form of:
- Employment status – a worker could be employed full-time, part-time, or on a casual basis. He or she could be employed for example temporarily for a specific project only, or on a permanent basis. Part-time wage labour could combine with part-time
self-employment. The worker could be employed also as an
- Civil (legal) status – the worker could for example be a free citizen, an
indentured labourer, the subject of
forced labour (including some prison or army labour); a worker could be assigned by the political authorities to a task, they could be a
semi-slave or a
serf bound to the land who is hired out part of the time. So the labour might be performed on a more or less voluntary basis, or on a more or less involuntary basis, in which there are many gradations.
- Method of payment (
compensation) – The work done could be paid "in cash" (a money-wage) or "in kind" (through receiving goods and/or services), or in the form of "
piece rates" where the wage is directly dependent on how much the worker produces. In some cases, the worker might be paid in the form of credit used to buy goods and services, or in the form of
stock options or
shares in an enterprise.
- Method of hiring – the worker might engage in a labour-contract on his or her own initiative, or he or she might hire out their labour as part of a group. But he or she may also hire out their labour via an intermediary (such as an employment agency) to a third party. In this case, he or she is paid by the intermediary, but works for a third party which pays the intermediary. In some cases, labour is
subcontracted several times, with several intermediaries. Another possibility is that the worker is assigned or posted to a job by a political authority, or that an agency hires out a worker to an enterprise together with
means of production.