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The Social Determinants Of Health: Working Conditions As A Determinant Of Health

3274 words - 14 pages

Working Conditions as a Determinant of Health
This summary is primarily based on papers and presentations by Andrew Jackson, Senior Economist, Canadian Labour Congress, and Michael Polanyi Assistant Professor, Saskatchewan Population Health Research and Evaluation Unit, and Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies, University of Regina. The presentations were prepared for The Social Determinants of Health Across the Life-Span Conference, held in Toronto in November 2002.

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Health Canada.

Current Situation
Over the 1980s and 1990s, there has been an ongoing restructuring of ...view middle of the document...

For example, only 10% of Canadian workplaces have adopted self-directed work groups, and just 32% have adopted flexible job designs (Jackson and Robinson, 2000). Canadian minimum wages and employment standards are minimal to modest compared

to countries in northern Europe. In these countries, the great majority of workers are covered by collective agreements that create a relatively high standard of pay, benefits and working conditions. The expanding peripheral job market includes many self-employed, temporary and part-time workers with insecure access to hours of work. It accounts for one -quarter to one-third of total adult employment in Canada. Job insecurity is high, particularly in small firms in the highly competitive consumer services sector (retail, accommodation and food services) and in the expanding social services sector (elder care, child care, home care). Typically, the skills and bargaining power of these workers are low, and there is limited access to collective bargaining, training, and career development opportunities. Many students, younger workers with limited educations, women and workers of colour, are trapped in precarious low-wage jobs in the peripheral market that are highly routine and boring. Most Canadian unions have adopted formal policies relating to workplace health and safety, work/family balance, work reorganization and access to training, and have paid some attention to all of these quality of work-life issues in bargaining. However, there are continuous pressures to increase productivity to maintain employment and wages, which tend to militate against an agenda of creating more healthy workplaces.

Factors that Affect the Issue
The following working conditions have been identified as central to whether a job is healthy or not:

Working Conditions as a Determinant of Health


Job and employment security Precariously employed workers, such as temporary employees, part-time workers and people working in low-wage survival jobs while they are trying to find better jobs more suited to their skills, face high levels of job insecurity and frequent short-term unemployment. Working poor families tend to move above and below the poverty line as they find and lose jobs, but rarely finding long-term jobs or income security (Finnie, 2000). These risks are compounded by: • a lack of access to employer-sponsored pensions and health benefits: less than half of non-union workers have access to medical, dental and disability coverage fear of job loss recent increases in the qualifying hour requirements in the employment insurance program that cut-off most precariously employed workers who need income support the most a lack of training programs for unemployed workers and those at risk: public spending on training in Canada amounts to 0.2% of GDP in comparison to 6% in Denmark and 4% in Sweden (Jackson and Robinson, 2000).

Work pace, control and stress In 2000, 35% of Canadian workers reported experiencing stress...

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