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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.fr/2007-06-28_P...

by Thomas Lemahieu

Work: A Health Hazard for One in Three Europeans

Translated Sunday 22 July 2007, by Emily Schirrer www.wordpro-translations.com

Working conditions: According to a study recently presented in Paris the problem is far from resolved, particularly where labourers and women are concerned.

A study involving 30,000 people from 31 countries, conducted in Autumn 2005 by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, presented yesterday in Paris, revealed that one in three European wage-earners considers their job “affects their health”.

Employees from the countries newly entering the European 27 are the most concerned - up to 60% according to the States - about the negative impact that their work is having on their health, compared to 20% in Great Britain and 27% in France. Generally, the most commonly stated ailments are musculoskeletal disorders (21% of European wage-earners suffer from back-ache), fatigue (20%), stress (18%), head-aches (12%) and irritability (12%).

With regards to job intensity (high work demands, very short deadlines, lack of time to perform tasks etc.), more and more salaried employees, white- and blue-collar, claim to experience difficulties at work. Again according to the enquiry this intensification of pressure would appear to be less problematic with age: cases of over 55s suffering from high work demands and very short deadlines are far less common. According to DARES, the French Ministry of Labour’s research and statistics unit, however, which conducts five-yearly surveys on working conditions in France, the problem is on the increase, even for the older workers: worse still, in the 1990s, night or alternating shift work increased more significantly for the older employees than for others.

The European Foundation for the improvement of living and working conditions’ study also rejects another belief, revealing that the physical risks associated with work are on the increase in Europe: 62% of European workers carry out repetitive hand or arm movements and close to 45% perform their duties in particularly uncomfortable, even painful positions. “The former risks aren’t going down and new ones are also arising, such as harassment”, laments Willy Buschak, the Foundation’s assistant manager, based in Dublin (Ireland). “Industrial constraints are actually increasing” maintains Jennifer Bué, researcher for DARES. Line production is intensifying: in 2005, more than one in four workers were working under these conditions and shift lengths continue to increase. “Generally speaking, workers benefit less from improved working conditions, a reality which is particularly striking with regards to women”.

The number of hours worked per week in Europe has declined over the last few years, mainly due to the increase in part-time work (33% of women and 8% of men work part-time) and the decrease in employees working over 48 hours a week. According to this European study the longer the working week the greater the dissatisfaction at work: at over 45 hours a week 40% of workers express dissatisfaction, compared to the 80% of satisfied employees working between 31 and 35 hours a week. Another noteworthy fact from this large-scale intra-European study: if paid work is added to “household” tasks, female part-time workers actually work more (21.3 hours of paid work plus 32.7 of housework) than men who work full-time (43.1 hours of paid work plus 7.9 hours in the home).

In terms of recognition for the work they do, 83% of Europeans report they are satisfied. Among the main areas of satisfaction are job security (75%) and having “very good friends” in the company (65%); however only 50% of Europeans consider themselves “well paid for what they do”, and 35% feel they have good prospects for career advancement. Only 36% of French employees consider that they are adequately paid for their work however, and 19% think they may have prospects for career advancement.

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