Categorized | Editorial

Precarious jobs scar employees’ mental health

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

It’s a well known trope that millenials are permanently attached to their phones.

Stress, unhappiness and an unhealthy home life are the biggest consequences of unstable employment, according to a new survey of more than 4,000 workers by the Ontario Federation of Labour.

While financial insecurity was flagged as a cause for concern, respondents identified anxiety as the single most important repercussion of precarious jobs.

“I’m not surprised because it’s been happening for so long here in this province,” said OFL president Chris Buckley.

“My heart aches for people who are in this situation, because you can’t plan your day-to-day life. You can’t plan your future. You can’t plan anything.”

Some 31 per cent of survey respondents singled out their emotional health as the most significant casualty of precarious work.

An unreliable income made up the next biggest share of answers at 28 per cent.

A further 22 per cent said precarious work compromised their inability to plan ahead.

Respondents said other negative side-effects included lack of benefits, low wages and debt.

Some 52 per cent of workers in the GTA now experience some form of insecurity in their jobs.

Half of the respondents to the OFL’s survey of its members said they had been precariously employed in the past, and more than a quarter said they defined their current job as precarious.

Existing research conducted by United Way and McMaster University shows precarious workers are twice as likely as those in stable employment to report having mental health problems.

Indeed, low-income workers in stable jobs were found to report better mental health than higher-earning individuals in precarious jobs.

A 2012 University of Michigan study showed precarious workers in that state were five times more likely than those in secure jobs to be at risk of major or minor depression and three times more likely to report having an anxiety attack in the past month. Research from Sweden suggests precarious work has a “scarring effect” on young people’s long-term mental health.

The Ontario government is currently reviewing its employment and labour laws with an eye to providing better protection for vulnerable workers.

“Right off the hop, workers should have their schedule at least two weeks in advance. They should be able to plan their lives at least two weeks out instead of sitting by the phone. The number of temporary jobs in Ontario has grown by 45 per cent since the year 2000,” Buckley said.

“I think the government has a real opportunity to make changes here, and I just hope that they’re listening to people.”

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