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Jamie Lawrence


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Workers unions and people-centric HR policies contribute to GDP


Countries where workers are protected by strong unions and good work and safety policies that acknowledge the importance of psychologically safe work environments have a higher GDP.

This is according to new academic research which explores whether work-related stress factors can explain national differences in health and economic productivity, measured by GDP.

The study, which analysed the working conditions and psychosocial health of workers relative to the political environments in 31 European countries, found a correlation between improved workplace health and GDP.

Another key finding was that national health inequalities have their basis in power structures across the country – namely, the presence of unions and effectiveness of workplace policies.

Worker health accounted for as much as 13 percent of the variance in life expectancy at the national level.

Undertaken by Professor Maureen Dollard and Daniel Y Neser at the University of South Australia’s Centre for Applied Psychological Research, the research was published in the journal of Social Science and Medicine.

“There is a proven link between stress and poor health outcomes. Our study shows for the first time a direct link between worker health, life expectancy and GDP,” said Professor Dollard.

“What the research also shows is that there is a tangible economic benefit at the macro level from the presence of quality union representation in partnership with organisational management structures that protect workers’ health and psychological wellbeing.”

“It is interesting that nations with what we might term neo-Liberal such as Ireland and the UK also fared well mainly due to good workplace practices perhaps driven by professional management approaches that measure health and safety outcomes as key performance indicators.”

A full copy of the research paper is available online [paid-for service].

Author Profile Picture
Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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