To keep goods accessible to consumers across borders and continents, employers must increase day-shift shifts. Moreover, after the new labor reforms in recent decades, they are now free to hire temporary workers to reduce labor costs.
This relentless economy was called by the famous sociologist Harriet Presser: the 24/7 economy.
Flexible jobs are growing in the 24/7 economy. Workers may work in the evening, at night, alternating shifts, break shifts, extra or irregular overtime shifts.
Some labor groups will be more likely to work flexibly than others. Young people, men, people with low levels of education and low-skilled workers have higher rates of flexible work. Besides, jobs in the private sector, service, and sales sectors have more flexible workers: gatekeepers, waiters, retail staff, nurses and personal service providers. This being one of the fastest-growing industries in the US and globally is not merely a coincidence.
A quantitative study that lasted for three decades (1980-2012) with people in 5 countries: the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Croatia was conducted.
The study primarily focused on the impact of the 24/7 economy on the development of children - social and emotional health, physical health, cognitive abilities, and academic performance - as well as its effects on families, parents, and couples.
For adults, evidence suggests that a flexible schedule has a markedly negative effect on physical and mental health. Physical health problems include depression, insomnia, stomach, and digestive problems, a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and being overweight. Also, 24/7 workers also tend to choose unhealthy lifestyles, such as smoking and drinking.
Chronic fatigue, lack of sleep and stress result in major obstacles to productivity. There are also psychological disorders associated with sleep deprivation, including negative effects on memory and reaction time, as well as chronic anxiety and depression. However, flexible work gives parents more time to raise children.
Although the negative impact of the economy 24/7 on families and children have been reported in different developed countries, some places have noted quite positive effects.
The consequences are most significant in the US. In general, US workers do not benefit from many flexible policies and sick leave or vacation. This is especially true in low-wage and low-paying jobs, which directly affects most overtime workers.
In Australia, by contrast, the adverse effects of shift work on adolescent's mental health are limited to those from single households.
Meanwhile in the Netherlands, flexible schedules do not seem to have any detrimental effect on family happiness. A comparative study by the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Finland found that flexible schedules for parents were linked to lack of sociable behavior among children in the UK, but not to any other field.
A reasonable explanation for this difference is that in Finland, the government allows preschool teachers to work flexibly. Such policies allow parents to look after children during office hours, while in the UK - like the United States there are no such laws.
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