Public release date: 28-Jun-2012
Contact: Heather Amos
University of British Columbia
Unemployed Americans face greater risk of mortality: UBC study
Employment policy is also health policy according to a University of British Columbia study that found that workers experienced higher mortality rates if they didn't have access to social protections like employment insurance and unemployment benefits.
Researchers with the Human Early Learning Partnership and the School of Population and Public Health at UBC found that low and medium-skilled workers in the United States are at a greater risk of death if they lose their job than their German counterparts, who have access to more robust employment protections and insurance.
"Employment insurance makes a difference to the health of the most vulnerable populations, low-wage and poorly educated workers," said Chris McLeod, the lead researcher on the paper and a post-doctoral fellow with the Human Early Learning Partnership. "For low-wage and poorly educated workers, it's not just about losing your job but losing your job and being at the bottom of the labour market."
The study, published online earlier this month in the American Journal of Public Health, compared mortality rates of unemployed minimum, medium and high-skilled workers in Germany and the United States of America between 1984 and 2005. While researchers found an increased risk of dying for all unemployed workers, the relative risk was higher for U.S. workers in almost all situations. Unemployed minimum and medium skilled Americans were about seven and 3.5 times more likely to die than employed high skilled Americans or Germans.
The U.S. and Germany are the world's two most successful economies but differ significantly in their employment policies. Germany, a coordinated market economy, has high levels of both employment protection – restrictions on terminating employees – and unemployment protection – availability of unemployment benefits. The United States, a liberal market economy, has low levels of employment and unemployment protection. The study found that 75 per cent of unemployed German workers received unemployment compensation compared to only 19 per cent of U.S. workers.