Bad Jobs are Making our Children Sick

johannaimmageBy Johanna Ysselstein, Pediatric Registered Nurse, Masters of Public Health student at Access Alliance

Bad jobs are making us sick; temporary jobs, jobs without legal protection, and jobs without security. Often referred to as precarious work, or non-standard employment, these include part-time and contract-based, ‘temp agency,’ on call and split shift jobs. Many of these job types have unpredictable work hours, lack standard benefits (such as sick leave) and have little or no extended benefit coverage (i.e. for prescription medicine).

Why is this important to talk about?

There is growing evidence that these types of precarious, non-standard types of employment are on the rise in Canada. A recent report, “Its more than Poverty” found that 40% of employees in the GTA work in precarious jobs. Being sucked into precarious jobs can have damaging health impacts including depression, digestive problems, musculoskeletal ailments, heart disease and diabetes. This is because these types of jobs cause high levels of stress on the economic security and health of families. Research conducted by Access Alliance shows that employment precarity not only affects workers but also the overall household wellbeing, to the extent that their children also feel damaging health impacts.

Income and employment are strong determinants of health. Job insecurity combined with income insecurity means that precariously employed families are at high risk of facing food insecurity, housing insecurity and reduced access to essential services. Research has also shown that children who experience poverty are at higher risk of encountering health problems, developmental delays and behavior disorders. They are also more likely to fall into the poverty trap themselves in adulthood. Not having flexible or predictable employment has further detrimental effects because families have less free time to spend together, impacting positive familial relationships and bonding experiences.

“Not having enough money, not being able to afford healthy food… Does affect me and causes weakness overall in the body… And because of financial insecurity from job and income is not enough so that stresses me… Affects my behavior towards my children and causes conflict and argument with my wife… That gets transferred to children and they also express their tensions in terms of anger…”– Daruun Sharma, Focus Group Participant in Where are the Good Jobs?

Daruun Sharma & his wife, like many other new families to Canada have faced difficulty finding meaningful, adequate paying, stable employment, which has made it difficult to afford suitable and flexible childcare arrangements, among other things. One of the most significant barriers for precariously employed parents that prevents them from improving their career situation is the unaffordable and inaccessible childcare. Affordable daycare and childcare for school aged children is vital for all families, but especially with precariously employed parents, since they experience the strongest economic burdens.

In 2012 Ontario had the highest average monthly fees for full-day care centers in all of Canada for both infants and toddlers (Quebec has the most affordable). That means that for precariously employed families with young children, childcare responsibilities can end up being very stressful.

However, in December 2013 the Government of Ontario proposed new legislation to address this in the “Child Care Modernization Act”. The purpose of the act is to distribute a balance between quality, affordability, safety and accessibility. The act proposes a flexible model and has the potential to reduce what parents/families pay in child care fees and subsidy costs for children up to age 6 years by approximately $3,500.

As this Act moves into possible regulation and law, my hope is that precariously employed families are able to access safe and flexible childcare options in their own communities at the right cost. This would help alleviate one barrier to better health and good employment that precariously employed family’s experience and eliminate one more obstacle that bad jobs put in their way.

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