Health, well-being, and happiness in the labor market
With institutions and countries increasingly focusing on well-being, policymakers are recognizing that additional measures to GDP can be used to determine the state of their economies. Happiness data, for example, could help to reveal a more comprehensive picture of an economy.
Happiness is key to a productive economy, but many factors affect workers’ happiness as well as their health and well-being, including, for example, issues such as job security, unemployment, different management practices, and the acceptance of someone’s gender identity.
Given the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic, policymakers should be aware that, as well as raising suicide rates, periods of economic downturn also increase the number of people suffering debilitating mental health problems, which significantly impact skills, productivity, and life satisfaction. Participation in sports and exercise is just one tool that could be used to boost workers’ productivity and earnings.
For new academic research on this topic, see IZA's discussion papers on health.
GDP summarizes only one aspect of a country’s condition; other measures in addition to GDP would be valuableBarbara M. Fraumeni, April 2022Gross domestic product (GDP) is the key indicator of the health of an economy and can be easily compared across countries. But it has limitations. GDP tells what is going on today, but does not inform about sustainability of growth. The majority of time is spent in home production, yet the value of this time is not included in GDP. GDP does not measure happiness, so residents can be dissatisfied even when GDP is rising. In addition, GDP does not consider environmental factors, reflect what individuals do outside paid employment, or even measure the current or future potential human capital of a country. Hence, complementary measures may help to show a more comprehensive picture of an economy.MoreLess
Economic recessions seem to reduce overall mortality rates, but increase suicides and mental health problemsNick Drydakis, December 2021Recessions are complex events that affect personal health and behavior via various potentially opposing mechanisms. While recessions are known to have negative effects on mental health and lead to an increase in suicides, it has been proven that they reduce mortality rates. A general health policy agenda in relation to recessions remains ambiguous due to the lack of consistency between different individual- and country-level approaches. However, aggregate regional patterns provide valuable information, and local social planners could use them to design region-specific policy responses to mitigate the negative health effects caused by recessions.MoreLess
Chronic diseases worsen labor market outcomes, but firms’ hiring and retention policies can reduce themAmanda Gaulke, January 2021Chronic health conditions are a global concern and can impact labor market outcomes of those diagnosed and their caregivers. Since the global prevalence of many chronic health conditions is on the rise, it is important to know what firms can do to retain and hire workers who are impacted. Firms can improve hiring by addressing biases against potential employees with chronic health conditions. Furthermore, firms can retain impacted workers by offering workplace flexibility such as partial sick leave, work hour flexibility, and part-time work options.MoreLess
Health effects of job insecurity Updated
Job insecurity adversely affects health, but employability policies and otherwise better job quality can mitigate the effectsFrancis Green, December 2020The fear of unemployment has increased around the world in the wake of Covid-19. Research has shown that job insecurity affects both mental and physical health, though the effects are lower when employees are easily re-employable. The detrimental effects of job insecurity could be partly mitigated if employers improved other aspects of job quality that support better health. But as job insecurity is felt by many more people than just the unemployed, the negative health effects during recessions are multiplied and extend through the majority of the population. This reinforces the need for effective, stabilising macroeconomic policies, most especially at this time of pandemic.MoreLess
The number of prime-age males outside the labor force is increasing worldwide, with worrying resultsThe global economy is full of progress paradoxes. Improvements in technology, reducing poverty, and increasing life expectancy coexist with persistent poverty in the poorest countries and increasing inequality and unhappiness in many wealthy ones. A key driver of the latter is the decline in the status and wages of low-skilled labor, with an increasing percentage of prime-aged men (and to a lesser extent women) simply dropping out of the labor force. The trend is starkest in the US, though frustration in this same cohort is also prevalent in Europe, and it is reflected in voting patterns in both contexts.MoreLess
The hidden private costs of obesity: lower earnings and a lower probability of employmentSusan L. Averett, August 2019Rising obesity is a pressing global public health problem responsible for rising health care costs and in some countries one of the leading causes of preventable deaths. There is substantial evidence that obese people are less likely to be employed and, when employed, earn lower wages. There is some evidence that the lower earnings are a result of discriminatory hiring and sorting into jobs with less customer contact. Understanding whether obesity is associated with adverse labor market outcomes and ascertaining the source of these outcomes are essential for designing effective public policy.MoreLess