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Promoting good quality jobs to reduce health inequalities

Local action on health inequalities

1. There are four ways in which the nature of work can adversely affect health: through adverse physical conditions of work; adverse psychosocial conditions at work; poor pay or insufficient hours; and temporary work, insecurity, and the risk of redundancy or job loss. In 2014, an estimated 1.2m working people in Great Britain had an illness or health condition believed to be caused, or exacerbated by, their current or previous work placement.

2. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and work-related stress, depression and anxiety were the most common work-related illnesses in 2013-14.

3. There is no generally accepted definition of good work but there are a range of features commonly associated with good jobs: adequate pay; protection from physical hazards; job security and skills training with potential for progression; a good work-life balance and the ability for workers to participate in organisational decision-making. Skilled work typically has more protective elements and less health-adverse conditions.

4. There is evidence of an increase in high-paid and low-paid jobs at the expense of middle-ranking jobs. Lower-skilled, lower-paid work is also disproportionately concentrated in the north of England. Increasing the quantity of jobs in England without consideration of job quality is likely to exacerbate social and health inequalities and create unequal economic growth.

5. To develop better jobs for local populations, local partnerships can draw on what is known about the features of good and poor quality work, and can learn from emerging strategies that promote good quality jobs with employers. A range of strategies should be used to focus on improving the quality of new and existing low-skilled jobs.

6. Local authorities have the opportunity to create jobs through a range of partnerships and initiatives, including working through local enterprise partnerships, employment services providers, and with third sector organisations to devise job creation strategies that could reduce health inequalities. Local partners should encourage jobs where workers are valued, receive a living wage at minimum, have opportunities for promotion, and are protected from adverse conditions, like shift work, when possible.

7. Working to improve the skills base of people in local and regional labour markets may help to attract more skilled employment to the area, and contribute to improving the quality of work. This is particularly important in more economically deprived regions such as the north of England, where a skills deficit already exists and sits side by side with greater health inequalities.