Employment is one of the most important determinants of good health and wellbeing. However, simply having work is not enough – working conditions and job quality have a significant impact. EuroHealthNet’s new Policy Précis Making the link: Working conditions, health, and equity sets out how changes in the way we work and working conditions can affect health and wellbeing. It further explores how investing in employment can help reduce health inequalities, in particular as part of a fairer and more sustainable recovery and resilience building in Europe.
While working conditions in Europe have improved greatly over the last decades, the extent to which workers benefit from these improvements varies, in for examples levels of autonomy, training and remuneration. Changes such as the increase in teleworking, digitalisation, and the need for new skills, have been accelerated by COVID-19; whilst some may feel a benefit, others will suffer from the heavy toll on mental health, widening gender inequalities, and worsening intergenerational divides. People in less skilled manual and service-oriented jobs may be left behind.
A range of international policies, programmes and initiatives shape employees’ rights and occupational health, and the functioning of labour markets. These initiatives will play an important role in Europe’s recovery from the pandemic, for example, the EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2021-2027 which was launched last week. In addition, today and yesterday, employment and social affairs ministers are meeting to discuss how to build a more resilient and inclusive labour market. In these and future measures and discussions, we need to be alert to the psycho-social aspects of work, job quality, and fair and decent working conditions for all. Strengthening the links between employment, health, and wellbeing with a focus on equity offers the potential to improve a range of societal outcomes in a sustainable way.
The new Policy Précis examines the impact of employment on health, and the pathways through which trends in the world of work are exacerbating inequalities. It sets out the framework for workers’ protection created through a variety of EU and international policies and what needs to be done to protect people from occupational risks. This includes physical, as well as psycho-social risks such as stress, burn-out, and depression. Practical examples from Finland, Wales, Austria, and the Netherlands illustrate what can be done to create healthy and fair workplaces through national policies and how employers can help.
Improving the understanding of the links between working conditions, health, and equity will allow for effective investment in the skills of workers, and the move towards an ‘economy of wellbeing’ where people are put central – ensuring a strong social foundation for a healthy recovery.” said Caroline Costongs, Director of EuroHealthNet.