New estimates from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) show that long working hours led to 745,000 deaths from ischemic heart disease and stroke in 2016, a 29% increase since 2000.
The new reports show that in 2016, 398,000 people died from stroke and 347,000 from heart diseases. These death, according to the report, were attributable to working 55 or more hours per week.
According to the joint report, the number of people working long hours globally has increased over the period. The new report puts the figure at 479 million workers, or 9% of the global population. The recent report is the first global analysis of the loss of life and health from these two diseases associated with working long hours.
The review found sufficient evidence that working at least 55 hours/week is associated with a higher risk of contracting these two disease. The risk of both ischemic heart disease and stroke are lower for people working 35-40 hours a week. From 2000 to 2016, people who die from heart disease from working long hours increased by 42%. Also, those from stroke went up by 19%.
Also, the report shows that 72% of deaths occurred among males. The death rate was particularly higher among middle-aged or older workers between the ages of 60 and 79 years. The institutions have expressed worry as most people are at risk since people working long hours are on the rise.
“Working long hours can lead to numerous mental, physical and social effects. Governments should take this issue very seriously. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation” .Vera Paquete-Perdigão, Director, Department of Governance and Tripartism, ILO
She explained that the pandemic has exposed workers to additional psychosocial hazards. These hazards are arising from the uncertainty of the work situation and longer working hours.
Meanwhile, the ILO and WHO have cited a host of factors that have led to the rise in working hours. The spread of teleworking and new information and communication technologies are some of them. Others include an upsurge in flexible, temporary, or freelance jobs. It has also led to the blurring of boundaries between working time and rest periods.
Addressing the problem
To tackle this problem, the report says that governments, employers and workers should put in place a series of measures. It advises governments to ratify and develop policies to implement International Labour Standards on working time. Some of these policies include setting standards on working time limits and daily and weekly rest periods. Others include paid annual leave, protections for night workers, and the principle of equal treatment for part-time workers.
Also, the report says governments should work in consultation with the social partners such as workers’ and employers’ organizations. This will help introduce laws and policies that ensure maximum limits on working time. these laws will also promote workplace compliance for decent working conditions.
Furthermore, it calls on Employers, in collaboration with workers, to organize working time to avoid negative health outcomes for workers. This is in relation to shift work, night work, weekend work and flexi-time arrangements.
The first edition of the report
The new estimates are looking into the number of deaths and healthy lives lost due to exposure to occupational risk factors. Such risks include exposure to chemical substances and cancer, among many others.
Detailed analysis of the estimates indicate that the 15 active ILO conventions relating to working hours saved about 143, 000 lives. Moreover, universal ratification of the conventions would be able to save additional 415’000 lives globally.
New ILO and the WHO methodologies aided estimation of the impact of occupational risk factors on workers’ health. It hoped these methodologies will allow more evidence-based action for prevention.