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New figures from the World Health Organization and International Labour Organisation show the deadly impact of long working hours on older workers in particular while new unemployment figures suggest older workers are particularly affected by long-term unemployment.
The number of people dying due to long working hours is rising, with middle-aged and older workers most affected, according to the first global analysis of its kind.
The analysis by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) found that long working hours led to 745,000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016, a 29% increase since 2000. They estimate that, in 2016, 398,000 people died from stroke and 347,000 from heart disease as a result of having worked at least 55 hours a week. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of deaths from heart disease due to working long hours increased by 42%, and from stroke by 19%.
The analysis shows that this work-related disease burden is particularly significant in men (72% of deaths occurred among males), people living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions and middle-aged or older workers. Most of the deaths recorded were among people dying aged 60-79 years, who had worked for 55 hours or more per week between the ages of 45 and 74 years.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way many people work. Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work. In addition, many businesses have been forced to scale back or shut down operations to save money, and people who are still on the payroll end up working longer hours. No job is worth the risk of stroke or heart disease. Governments, employers and workers need to work together to agree on limits to protect the health of workers.”
The figures come amid rising concern in the UK for the impact of long-term unemployment on older workers.
The latest ONS figures show a slight fall in unemployment [down 0.3% on the previous quarter] and a rise in employment [up 0.2% on the previous quarter], the first month-on-month increase in the number of freelancers since the beginning of the pandemic, the highest quarterly total of job vacancies since March 2020, a reduction in total hours worked on the quarter and a fall in the redundancy rate on the quarter. However, they show that long-term unemployment has risen significantly in the last year with concerns rising for older people, given they are most likely to find it harder to get a job after losing one.
Labour Market Statistics, Institute of Employment Studies director Tony Wilson said: “Today’s figures confirm that the labour market is turning the corner – with a sharp rise in employee jobs in April as the economy reopened, vacancies rising and unemployment now clearly trending down. However you don’t have to look too far to see the lasting damage caused by a year of lockdowns and disruption.
Long-term unemployment rose by more than a quarter in the last year, its fastest rate of growth since the 2010 crisis. Older people in particular are now starting to see sharp rises, with long-term unemployment reaching its highest in five years. With many firms reporting difficulties in filling jobs as the economy reopens, government and employers will need to do more to bring the long-term unemployed back into work and help avoid this crisis leading to lasting scars.”