Work, Worklessness, and the Political Economy of Health

Work, Worklessness, and the Political Economy of Health

Clare Bambra

Print publication date: 2012

ISBN: 9780199588299

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Abstract

We are told that ‘work is good for us’ and that ill-health is caused by ‘individual lifestyles’. Drawing on research from public health, social policy, epidemiology, geography, and political science, this evidence-based inter-disciplinary book firmly challenges these contemporary orthodoxies. It systematically demonstrates that work — or lack of it — is central to our health and wellbeing and is the underlying determinant of health inequalities. Work is the cornerstone of modern society and dominates adult life with around a third of our time spent working. It is a vital part of self-identity and for most of us, it is the foundation of economic and social status. As such, the material and psychosocial conditions in which we work have immense consequences for our physical and mental wellbeing, as well as the distribution of health across the population. Recessions, job-loss, insecurity, and unemployment also have important ramifications for the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities. Chronic illness is itself a significant cause of worklessness and low pay. Drawing on examples from different countries, this book shows that the relationship between work, worklessness, and health varies by country. Countries with a more regulated work environment and a more interventionist and supportive welfare system have better health and smaller work-related health inequalities. The book provides examples of specific policies and interventions that mitigate the ill-health effects of work and worklessness. It concludes by asserting the importance of politics and policy choices in the aetiology of health and health inequalities.