Bleats

Job Insecurity Is The New Normal And It's Playing Havoc On Our Mental Health

Modern life, huh? It's out to get us.

Do you have a permanent full time job? If so, congratulations: you’re now officially in the minority.

The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work did some tooling about with the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ data and came to the startling conclusion that, for the first time ever, the majority of working Australians don’t have full time employment will leave entitlements.

You know, those jobs that give sick leave, time off, a nice regular wage that banks like when approving mortgages? Those ones. They’re getting less common.

It’s been sliding for a while but this is the first time that it’s dipped below half the working population. Specifically, 49.97 per cent of Australians enjoyed that, with part time work (31.7 per cent) on the rise along with self-employment, casual and underemployed workers.

In other words, insecure work is on the rise – even in places like universities which used to be a source of good, reliable jobs and now have the majority of their workforce casualised in Victoria, according to the Age.

And this is the case in similar countries like the US where jobs like “food delivery person” and “taxi driver” have been phased out for self-employed contractors who shoulder all their own costs – petrol, insurance and so forth – while getting no benefits like sick leave or guaranteed hours.

This is obviously super-great for companies who don’t have to actually employ people and can enjoy total flexibility in their hiring. And it’s super-terrible for human beings because uncertainty and insecurity plays utter havoc on people’s brain-meat.

And also, this guy.

It turns out that people like having answers to things like “can I make rent?” and “will my card be refused at the supermarket?” and “can I make plans for tomorrow night without having to cancel because I get called into work and/or will I spend all day tomorrow waiting for a call into work that never comes?”

For example, take a look at the situation in the US where the rise of insecure work has coincided with an explosion in mental heath issues, including suicide. (Fun fact: if you’re not in a full time job with health insurance benefits in the US, chances are you couldn’t afford mental health care in any case. So that’s a thing.)

And the Journal of Occupational Medicine has called for urgent research into some of the most visible problems with the gig economy in the UK, saying that it “has engaged many workers who are highly educated and might previously have been in traditional employer–employee relationships, and appears to increase their vulnerability to wage theft, independent contractor misclassification, job insecurity, and lack of occupational health protections.”

UK researcher Joanna Wilde has described the conditions of the gig economy and its isolation, insecure work hours and unpredictable pay as “absolute recipe for a stress-related illness… You couldn’t treat a human being in a way that is more guaranteed to generate some sort of mental health problem.”

And that’s what Australia is apparently signing up for in ever-greater numbers.

So what do we do? Well, oddly enough, the election might help.

 

The future of work is a key battleground for this poll, whether that’s the Coalition plumping for mining jobs in central Queensland or Labor fighting to reverse penalty rate cuts and legislate pay rises in the child care sector.

And it’s a battle better fought now, before we’re all app-driven gig-drones hoping to hear that ding that means we might cover our expenses this week.

Your Social Feed Is Absolutely Being Manipulated For The Australian Election

All the lessons of the last US election are being used - deliberately, in many cases - for our own little democracy-party.

If you’re feeling angrier and more frustrated this election then maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and ask the question “is this because of social media?”

And if the answer is yes (and spoiler: the answer is yes): then it’s worth being aware that there are multiple signs that the same forces that were at work during the Trump-winning US election are at work here too.

Some of it looks like foreign interference – even the most cursory glance at Twitter would show the number of no-photo new profiles with overseas ISP addresses who nonetheless have very, VERY strong opinions about why [insert party here] are going to ruin Australia.

Surprise!

But a lot of it is from actual political parties themselves.

For one thing, there’s a mobile app by uCampaign which “gameifies” political activism – Trump’s campaign used it, as did the pro-Brexit movement, and less successful campaigns like the anti-abortion campaign in Ireland and Australian Christian Lobby’s No campaign in the marriage equality postal vote here – and several minor (and conservative-leaning) parties have bought it up to create their own tool this election.

The problem with the app isn’t just the more objectionable things it’s used for, but the security of the data since it has been reported by the ABC that such apps can quietly access a users entire contact list and social media data.

And that’s not great news if you’re in the phone of or FB friends with anyone who supports a party that’s built their app off that template.

There’s also the fact that cybersecurity experts have warned political parties that the data they’ve collected on voters is as insecure as the politicians themselves. And that’s a bit of a problem since the majors were hacked back in February, as was Parliament House itself.

And as you know thanks to those Clive Palmer text messages you’ve received and can’t opt out of, political parties are exempt from the Privacy Act. And thus it’s hard to see how they’d be held accountable for what happens to the data they scrape.

Data does enjoy being scraped, to be fair.

And we’re already seeing fake news circulating on social media regarding “death taxes” which comapnies like Facebook are declining to remove, despite their promises to stamp out this exact thing during the election. So it’s no wonder you’re feeling antsy.

So what do you do?

Don’t download dodgy political apps, block and report things that look fake, use your better judgement when you see something that smells a bit like bullshit, and most of all remember that the election is just around the corner and that this too shall pass.

Just hold out for those democracy sausages, friends.

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