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MICHAELS: Consider the people who hold up the economy

July 19, 2019 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


If you pull your worldview from TV, successful chefs may look like bombastic tyrants, hurling insults and cutlery whenever the mood hits.

Exciting, repugnant and generally a reflection of society’s hedonism. 

Or maybe they’re living in your mind’s eye in the form of Anthony Bordain, unflappably cool with a palate that can suss out the heart of a community at the bottom of a bowl of soup.

Of course, reality is rarely found on TV, despite the onslaught of so-called “reality TV.”

Those screen-dwelling caricatures have made way for real chefs in the far-flung reaches of the globe like Kelowna and Kamloops to carve out niches for themselves and elevate what was once deemed a fairly uninspiring trade to a position of respect.

But as soon as the sheen of celebrity starts deflecting honest analysis, we probably should look closer. 

Recently there’s been a push to do just that with special focus on mental health.

Countless studies are starting to show that people in service industries suffer higher rates of mental health struggles which is worth thinking about when you consider how much of our community is service-based.

In 2016, Kelowna's tourism sector generated 8,350 jobs and an overall direct economic impact of $810 million, according to Tourism Kelowna. So how are those hard-working men and women around us faring?

It's hard to say, but a disturbing  2018 study out of the U.S. highlights the risks they face.

Service workers who rely on tips are at greater risk for depression, sleep problems and stress compared with employees who work in non-tipped positions, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Their analysis, which is based on data from a U.S. health study that followed thousands of participants from adolescence into adulthood, shows that the precarious work of the service industry, including lower and unpredictable wages, insufficient benefits and lack of control over work and assigned shifts may be part of the issue.

"On average, tipped workers are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty relative to untipped workers,” aid lead author Sarah Andrea, M.P.H., a Ph.D. candidate in epidemiology at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health.

Both tipped and untipped workers in service occupations also are expected to control certain emotions, including anger or disagreement, as well as manage instances of sexualized or hostile behaviour during interactions with customers.

Andrea said these factors may further increase the risk of stress and mental health problems across the service industry, with the greatest impact on women, who comprise 56 percent of all service workers and 67 percent of all tipped workers.

This group is also more likely to self-report illicit drug use and has the highest rates of substance abuse disorder than any other sector.

I'd wager most people know these risks intuitively, or through experience.

What we should do to ensure that these people who hold so much of the economy up, however, remains to be seen.

It's certainly worth thinking about next time you consider when you're cruising through a local hotspot.

Definitely before you hurl cutlery.

— Kathy Michaels is an editor and reporter for iNFOnews.ca


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