New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Alexander-Stamatios G. Antoniou and Cary L. Cooper
Chapter 18: Low income families and occupational health: implications of economic stress for work-family conflict research and practice
The United Nations (2011: 8) refers to the recent economic downturn as ‘the fastest and deepest drop in global economic activity since the great depression’ and reports that 1 in 5 workers and their families worldwide live in extreme poverty. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2011a) data shows unemployment in European Union member countries rising from 7.2 per cent in 2007 to 9.7 per cent as of September, 2011, with considerably higher rates in countries such as Portugal (12.5 per cent), Ireland (14.2 per cent) and Spain (22.6 per cent). Unemployment nearly doubled in the United States during the same time period, rising from 4.6 per cent to 9.1 per cent. While the sharp declines in economic activity may have slowed for the moment, the International Monetary Fund (2011) projects a long period of slow global activity and continued financial instability. The global economic downturn arguably represents the single biggest threat to occupational health as it is a root cause of many occupational health concerns. Reduced economic activity creates competitive pressures for organizations, which often respond by attempting to reduce labor costs through changes in work organization, such as lean staffing practices (for example, asking fewer employees to work more hours), using temporary/contract employees, decreasing available work hours, reducing wages and cutting benefits programs.
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