Joyless, insecure jobs are “worsening” the mental health crisis engulfing the UK, Jeremy Corbyn has said.
The Labour leader said so-called gig economy jobs were a “source of continuous worry and insecurity” for millions of people and were “in part” responsible for Brits’ mental wellbeing.
Speaking at the TUC annual conference in Brighton, Corbyn cited a Manchester University study, which found having no job was better for your mental health than low-quality, low-responsibility and low-paid work.
He said: “Increasingly flexible employment is sold to us as a benefit, they call it the gig economy, and who doesn’t like going to a gig?
“It is a benefit to unscrupulous employers, but it is the source of continuous worry and insecurity for millions of people and is in part responsible for the worsening mental health of a country that has lost over 6,000 mental health nurses in recent years.
“The ‘gig economy’ presents itself as modern and dynamic but all too often uses technology as a cover to deny both employees and customers basic protections.
“We need a government and economic and industrial policies that are not stuck in a 1980s time warp of neoliberal dogma, but are gripped by the necessity of channeling and shaping technological change to benefit the many not the few.”
Receiving a standing ovation from delegates, he pledged Labour would fight for better-quality jobs and would tackle workers’ worries about automation.
Corbyn said: “We need a government and economic and industrial policies that are not stuck in a 1980s time warp of neoliberal dogma but are driven by the need to channel and shape technological change, to benefit the many not the few.
“That will not happen if we leave it to the market or corporate boardrooms.
“The Bank of England estimates that 15 million jobs could be at risk of automation over the next decade and as is so often the way those who are most at risk are those who are paid the least.
“The deregulated gig economy is ripe for automation. It is no basis for economic advance and rising living standards. No, that demands high investment in the cutting edge jobs of the future.”
It comes as Unite boss Len McCluskey hinted a general strike could be on the table unless an across-the-board the public sector pay cap was lifted by the Government.
Police and prison officers were offered a modest increase and Number 10 confirmed it is open to discussions with other workers.
Corbyn, who has told the BBC he was open to continued single market membership post-Brexit, claimed the Tory Government had “widened regional inequalities” and “sharply increased the wealth gap” in the country.
He went on: “And the Tory approach to Brexit is to use the process of leaving to go much further, much faster in that direction and deliver a deregulated free market tax haven on the shores of Europe, underpinned with a race-to-the-bottom trade deal with Donald Trump - a Shangri La for bosses and bankers but nothing of the kind for everybody else.”
Speaking after the speech, Conservative MP Rishi Sunak slammed the Labour leader over his party’s approach to Brexit, saying it was unclear where Corbyn stood on single market membership.
He said: “This latest Brexit confusion from Labour will only add to the view that Labour will do anything to block Brexit – as we saw last night when they queued up to vote to do just that. Their blatant disregard for the democratic will of the people shows that Labour are more interested in playing political games than offering a solution that helps get the best Brexit deal for the country.”