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Welfare regimes, labour policies and unhealthy psychosocial working conditions: a comparative study with 9917 older employees from 12 European countries


Background Recent analyses explored associations of welfare state regimes with population health, with particular interest in differences between social protection-oriented versus more liberal regimes. Little is known about such associations with work-related health. The aims of this contribution are (1) to study variations of quality of work according to type of welfare regime and (2) to analyse differences in the size of effects of quality of work on workers' health according to type of welfare regime.

Methods The authors use cross-sectional and longitudinal data from two studies (‘Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe’ and the ‘English Longitudinal Study on Ageing’) with 9917 employed men and women (aged 50 to 64) in 12 European countries. Psychosocial quality of work is measured by low control and effort–reward imbalance at work. Depressive symptoms are introduced as a health indicator. Linear multilevel models and logistic regression analyses are performed to test the hypotheses. In addition to the welfare regime typology, the authors introduce labour policy and economy-related macro indicators.

Results Between-country variations in quality of work are largely explained by macro indicators and welfare regimes, with poorer quality of work in countries with less emphasis on older workers' protection. Moreover, in the Liberal and Southern welfare regime, effects of quality of work on depressive symptoms are relatively strongest (adjusted ORs varying from 1.45 to 2.64).

Conclusion Active labour policies and reliable social protection measures (eg, Scandinavian welfare regime) exert beneficial effects on the health and well-being of older workers. More emphasis on improving quality of work among this group is warranted.

  • Occupational health
  • occupational stress
  • elderly
  • social policy
  • multilevel modelling

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