Workplace changes a health disaster

Howard`s IR changes will lead to poorer health for the lower paid.

Two new studies show that the radical workplace changes proposed by the Howard government will lead to poorer health for the lower paid.

The life expectancy gap between low- and middle-income earners and high-wage earners will expand significantly under the federal government’s new workplace laws, says a Sydney University report.

The report, prepared by the Australian Centre for Industrial Relations Research and Training, predicts rising illness and falling levels of mental and physical health caused by workplace change.

The study by Dr Chris Briggs analysed comparative studies of workplace changes introduced in Britain, New Zealand, Victoria and Western Australia over the past decade. He also looked at studies conducted by the Australian-born, British-based academic Sir Michael Marmot, who has linked health to inequality, the quality of work, community and family life.

‘It is reasonable to infer the proposed industrial relations reforms are likely to worsen overall population health, especially for those on the lower side of the labour market and social gradient,’ he said.

These concerns are given credence by another report prepared by New Zealand’s health ministry, which examined the period in which radical workplace changes – very similar to those proposed by the Howard government – were introduced in that country. It found widening inequality had contributed to rising mortality rates and had created gaps in life expectancy between low and high-income groups. Cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, other cancers and suicides also rose among lower-income earners.