What is it about?

This study investigates differences in exposures to work-related insecurity across the occupational hierarchy and how these exposures impact on workers' health over time. A key finding from the study is that exposure to work-related insecurity appears to account for a portion of the variability in health outcomes across the occupational hierarchy.

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Why is it important?

Gradients in health by occupational status have been reliably documented by many studies over several decades. Findings show that workers with more status and higher levels of skill tend to have better health outcomes than their counterparts who labor in less skilled, lower-status jobs. Understanding the key explanatory factors that underlie the relationship between position in the occupational hierarchy and health outcomes has been a source of perennial disquiet to researchers and practitioners seeking ways to mitigate inequality in health outcomes across workers. This study shows that exposure to work-related insecurity - defined as a chronic stressor arising from the decline of securities associated with the post-war standard in employment - is partly responsible for differences in health outcomes among workers who occupy different positions in the occupational hierarchy.

Perspectives

My background in the history of labor relations has caused me to watch with alarm the stark changes in the nature of employment that have rolled-back much of the progress that workers had made in securing concessions from employers following WWII. Indeed, we have moved to a 'gig' economy wherein a growing proportion of workers lack job and income security and, in turn, the ability to plan their career and financial futures. Through my research, my goal has been to demonstrate how, in the contemporary labor-market, the experience of work-related insecurity affects all workers to some degree, including those whose jobs are nominally secure (i.e., full-time, full-year and non-term). Changes in the political economy of work associated with technological change and globalization have given rise to losses in key job and income security provisions that were once considered 'standard' for workers in the mainstream labor-market. Losses in wage sufficiency, regular pay raises, income-security measures like retirement pensions and health care plans, opportunities for job or career-advancement, and increasing pressure to work more hours for the same salary (i.e., unpaid overtime work) have each contributed to a growing insecurity among workers who have become less able to make long-term plans around career, finances and family. The call to action for employers and policy-makers in this work is the evidence that work-related insecurity is adversely affecting workers' health, and hence, represents a non-sustainable state of affairs in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Heather Scott-Marshall
University of Toronto

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This page is a summary of: Occupational Gradients in Work-Related Insecurity and Health: Interrogating the Links, International Journal of Health Services, March 2019, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/0020731419832243.
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