Monday 24 September 2018

If we don't kill dreaded gig economy, it will kill us

The Tasc report on the mental health effects of precarious employment should ring alarm bells, writes Donal Lynch

We now have a gig economy in which young people across a broad spectrum of professions — from teaching to retail — live pay cheque to pay cheque. Stock picture
We now have a gig economy in which young people across a broad spectrum of professions — from teaching to retail — live pay cheque to pay cheque. Stock picture
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

There was a time, not that long ago, when the word gig still held a certain rock star resonance. When I got my first writing job, a year after college, my friends and I proudly trumpeted that now I had a gig, as opposed to something as tediously permanent and pensionable as a career. We were children of the Celtic Tiger and we took a lot for granted.

Our parents murmured about security, but those of us who could were thrilled to have escaped the office life sentence of 9-5 and put off growing up for a while. The real mugs, as far as we were concerned, were the people with jobs.

Fast-forward 15 years and the word gig has taken on entirely different associations; exploitation, poverty, insecurity. We now have a gig economy in which young people across a broad spectrum of professions - from teaching to retail - live pay cheque to pay cheque. 'If and when' contracts have become a new norm. And there is no glamour to it all. According to a report published last week by Tasc, the toll that this is taking on the physical and mental health of Irish workers, is enormous. The majority of participants in the study revealed that they went to work when they were ill, which often prolonged their illnesses.

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