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Precarious work affects mental and physical health: OFL survey

Close to 5,000 Ontario workers polled


(Canadian OH&S News) — A recent survey by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) has found that insecure work — such as part-time, temporary or contract jobs — often has a negative effect on a person’s health, both mental and physical.

The survey asked 4,771 Ontario workers from July to October about their experiences with precarious employment, according to a March 20 media release from the OFL. Nearly one-third of respondents claimed that precarious work had caused some form of mental or physical health issues in the 15-minute survey, which was conducted both online and in person.

“People are actually working more than one precarious job to make ends meet,” said OFL secretary-treasurer Patty Coates. “So their workday isn’t the normal nine-to-five workday. They may start at seven in the morning, or they’re working until ten o’clock at night, because they’re working several jobs.” People in insecure work often have no access to paid vacation or sick days, she added.

“So it affects their emotional well-being, their physical health because they’re not taking care of themselves,” said Coates.

Stress and anxiety are a common result of unstable employment, and young people and women are the most likely to suffer from mental-health distress due to precarious work. It can have a negative effect on family life as well.

“A lot of our young workers are putting off their life,” said Coates, “because they’re not in a stable job. So they’re putting off having relationships, building relationships, putting off getting married. They’re putting off having children. Of course, they can’t even afford to purchase a home. So they’re putting off those life milestones because of the precarious work.”

The OFL initiated the survey to raise awareness of the fact that precarious work is a lot more common today than many people realize, as well as to understand what kind of effect that work has on individuals.

Another reason for the survey, according to Coates, is that the Government of Ontario is embarking on a review of the province’s Employment Standards Act and Labour Relations Actbecause they are recognizing that there are changes taking place in our workplaces,” she explained. “There is more precarious work. There’s more part-time work, there’s more casual work, there’s more contract work. And less permanent jobs.” So the OFL is lobbying for changes to these laws “to make sure that workers don’t face the overwhelming stress of long-term precarious employment.

“When you have part-time precarious employment, those workers aren’t as productive because they don’t have the opportunity for benefits such as paid sick leave or vacation.”

Of the survey respondents, more than 25 per cent were precariously employed at the time, including 45 per cent of respondents between 18 and 34 years old. Out of those, more than two-fifths said that full-time work and stable income were concerns regarding their economic situations.

Nearly 90 per cent of all respondents stated that they had children, relatives or friends who were precariously employed, and more than 80 per cent recognized that precarious work is more common now than it was five or ten years ago.

All of the demographics surveyed cited wages, pay equity and benefits as their top priorities.