Employment: Contractor vs Permanent

I have this debate with myself at the moment of what is the most suitable way for me when it comes to working.  Contracting or Permanent?

As a background, I have no small schoolgoing children but do have 2 that are still dependents since they are at varsity.  So I do need a stable income and some form of security to cover things like medical aid, provision for retirement and all the expenses that goes with life. 

Further, I am lucky that to a certain extend I am a highly qualified and experienced professional which make finding work fairly easy even in the tough economic situation we are currently in.

I have worked both as a contractor and a permanent employee, most as a permament employee.  From my experience over the last couple of months as a contractor, I defnitely prefer to be permanently employed.  I have found that although most companies say that they treat contractors and permanent staff the same, in practice this is far from true.  I am not going to mention company names but one company has a destinct difference in the office space they allocate to contractors vs their permanent staff.  Contractors might get a working space off somewhere between 2 and 3 square meters where permanent staff gets around 10.  As you can image, when people work in such close proximity to one another, productivity and concentration goes out the window.

Although as a contractor, my take home pay each month is far in excess than would I have been permanent, each minute and day I do not work, I do not get paid.  When we look at April and May then it means that the working days is a lot less which has a real material affect.  Also since one do not get paid for vacantion, one tends not to take any which over a period of time has a detremental affect on your health.

Also I have found that contracts tend to very short, anything from 3 to 6 months.  This always sits in the back of your mind and you are constantly on the look out for new work just incase your contract does not get renewed.  This just increase the daily stress levels one has to cope with.

At the moment the debate is strongly leaning towards the permanent side.  Even with 20% less in salary, I would go back to permanent.  Maybe it is a age thing or the way I went through my working life, but I just prefer permanent.

I would like to hear your comments on your experience regarding this.

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