A recent study carried out by Dr Jon Minton on behalf of the University of York and University of Sheffield shows that over the last few decades its has become increasingly difficult for those with poor health to break into the job market.
The study looked at whether relationships between social class, health and economic inactivity between 1973 and 1993 were the same between 1994 and 2009. Economic inactivity was defined by the authors as someone who was unemployed and not actively looking for employment. The participants were aged between 20 and 59, both male and female.
The study, entitled “Research: Health, employment and economic change, 1973 – 2009: repeated cross-sectional study” has revealed that over the last forty years, those with limiting long-term illness (LLTI) have found the task of getting back to work increasingly challenging. The relationship between good health and securing sustained employment has strengthened across virtually all industries. For men it is believed to be due to employment rates decreasing and economic inactivity rates increasing among men with poor health. For women on the other hand, the trend has been attributed to increased employment and reduced economic inactivity occurring among healthier women, rather than in women of poorer health. Nevertheless, women with LLTI have seen the sharpest decline in employment rates.
Dr Minton’s work has suggested that manual labours have been hardest hit. Office workers experiencing LLTI have been far less affected as their roles are usually less physically demanding. The almost unbroken decline in the UK’s manufacturing industry has only worsened the situation of un-skilled and semi-skilled workers in the UK. Sadly, with the ‘double dip’ Recession upon us, things are not forecasted to get any better.
Dr Milton, who is now a Research Associate at the University of Sheffield, suggested another factor exacerbating the problem for manual workers;
“The fact the employment penalty for having a limiting long-term illness seems so much worse for people with backgrounds in manual labour could be because of the nature of the work, which makes it harder to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace than for non-manual work.”
Co-author Professor Kate Pickett, from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, stated that the main way to combat this trend would be to focus on keeping these people with poor and worsening health in work as long as possible, and where necessary, retraining them.
The conclusions of this research should come as little surprise. Britain has one of the highest Disability Living Allowance (DLA) records in Europe. Fortunately York, with it’s mainly tourism based economy pulling in around $3billion a year, should continue to avoid the worst excesses of the Recession. The Coalitions plans to scrap DLA in favour of Personal Independence Allowance, which they claim will help those most in need get the financial assistance they deserve. Sadly, this won’t help those people get back into the jobs market. This study seems to suggest the only what is going to happen, is with major investments into job accessibility and some serious regeneration of our manufacturing sector. We live in hope.
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