Finances mean choosing between food and medicine

People on zero-hour contracts or similar work situations are so financially precarious some are avoiding going to the doctor or delaying having children.

Finances mean choosing between food and medicine

A conference on precarious employment organised by the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) heard that one interviewee in a research project said money was so tight it was a choice between food or an inhaler for asthma, while another person said they had stopped attending their GP for the contraceptive pill because they wanted to save the €60 doctor’s fee.

Dr Sinead Pembroke of the independent thinktank for Action on Social Change (TASC) interviewed 40 people aged 18 to 45 living in Ireland who were employed, or had been employed on an if-and-when zero-hour basis, on a fixed term contract, or was self-employed.

It found that people in the labour market but without any long-term job security felt unable to make short-term plans, could not plan for the future and had no idea regarding what steps they could take to provide a pension for late in life.

Dr Pembroke found some of those interviewed said they had felt stress, anxiety and had concerns over their mental health, particularly those who were renting in the current housing market.

The findings came after a Red C opinion poll, published earlier this week by the NYCI, showed almost half of those aged 18 to 29 are working on non-standard contracts. it also found that precarious employment was much more prevalent among young people from lower socio-economic groups and among those outside Dublin.

In presenting her findings, Dr Pembroke said “precarious work practices create precarious lives” and could also create dependencies on other people and heighten the risk of social isolation.

One interviewee for her research said: “They told me if I wanted to get an MRI scan I would be waiting three months. So I had a really low income and I had to get a lend of money from my parents to get an MRI scan, (I think it was 150-200 euro). At the age of 31 having such a low income, you already feel a little bit less successful in the traditional way.”

A person, who claimed she had just €31 in her bank account, said: “I would probably really think twice about planning a family because I know how it is out there, and I don’t want to bring children to the world when I can’t cope financially.”

Meanwhile, another interviewee said: “I’m still living at home with my mum and dad, and brother… I’d love to move but not a hope I’d be able to afford it.”

Ciarán Nugent of the Nevin Economic Research Institute, one of the speakers, said about 12.5% of all 15 to 30-year-old employees were working on involuntary temporary contracts, compared to just over 3% of those aged over 30.

He said there was very little in Budget 2018 for young people and the current trends had serious implications for social mobility and inequality.

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