Feb 25, 2013

Job Loss, Insecurity and Worker Health via @hazardsmagazine

Rory O'Neill (sent via email): "Good work is good for you, much of the time. Bad work, particularly if it is insecure and poorly paid, has very little to recommend it, either for the worker or the wider community."

The UK example is not as straightforward as it might seem. Successive governments (of different political flavours) embarked on projects to reduce the welfare bill, and this involved getting the unemployed sick and employed sick back into productive work. Research was commissioned to support this project (Burton and Waddell), and concluded work is good for you, with the undoubted health impact of unemployment used as a point of comparison.

 However, the research failed to distinguish between the benefit of ‘good work’ and any work. Other studies have subsequently concluded while good work can confer considerable health and societal benefits, bad work does not. A fifth of all sick leave in the UK is estimated to be related to work (and the figures will not include the certainly greater harm caused by work in the burgeoning informal economy, with its casualties added to the ‘unemployed’ column). Good quality voluntary community activities do more good than bad, insecure jobs.

Which leads to the other problem with the ‘work is good for you’ case. New jobs are increasingly insecure, with contingent labour having none of the certainties and rights that convey the benefits of good work. More on this here: www.hazards.org/insecure and www.hazards.org/workandhealth
Those in previously good work, may be facing increased pressure caused by a change in the political dynamic at work, firms facing increased cost pressures in a recession, and fewer workers being required to do more and steady eroding terms and conditions.