Why Long Workhours Harm Health and Gender Equality: Insights from Australia and Germany
Seminar led by Professor Lyndall Strazdins from Australian National University
In 2021, the World Health Organization ranked long hours as one of the most important work-related global health hazards. Yet, despite decades of solid evidence on their health harms, workhour limits are routinely violated overtly or covertly in many countries, including Australia and Germany, and long hours remain a tacit ‘rule’ for good jobs, good pay and career success. Because long workhours are incompatible with care and domestic work, they pose a problem for gender equality in earnings and labour market opportunities.
In this presentation, we gain insights from a recent German -Australian collaboration using representative, longitudinal data from Australia and Germany (103,015 – 109,886 observations, HILDA and SOEP surveys). We first show how the capacity to work ‘extra’ time leads to far higher earnings in both countries. We then model how this creates different health harms for men and women to work in good jobs, because of women’s ‘other job’ (unpaid work in the home) that also takes time. Our findings reveal that women’s health is compromised considerably more than men’s by working long hours because of the extra hours they work in the home. Our estimates indicate that men, on average, can work 10 to 14 hours longer than women without a health cost because of men’s lower share of unpaid care and domestic work. Irrespective of work experience or education, for women to earn equally and hold high paying jobs like men do, they must pay a higher health cost. This higher cost shapes the ‘glass ceiling’ and perpetuates gender inequality in earnings and career success with potential long-lasting harm for women’s financial and wellbeing in old age. We conclude the seminar by discussing recent research on why attempts to change long hours are often resisted by workplaces and policy makers.
Professor Strazdins (Australian National University) is a research leader in work and health in contemporary, gender-mixed labour markets. Her focus has been the problem for health and gender inequality created by conflicts between long work hours and family care, and the need to address long work hours as a Work Health and Safety priority. She is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and was awarded the EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie International Fellowship Seal of Excellence. Her papers have been among the top 5 in their year in her field. Professor Strazdins also leads research on time as a determinant of health, lack of time is one of the most important reasons why people do not exercise regularly or eat healthy food. She has been a scientific advisor to the Australian Government Investing in Women, seeking to support gender equality in employment in Asian labor markets. She has presented to the Japanese Gender Equality Bureau, and served as Scientific Advisor for multiple Federal and State Government initiatives including the Defense Forces, Health Promotion and Work Health and Safety. Professor Strazdins has worked closely with Professor Jianghong Li at the WZB for over a decade, and this seminar reports on new insights for work, health and gender equality emerging from this collaboration.
Barrier-free WZB: The venue is wheelchair accessible. Please let Friederike Theilen-Kosch (friederike.theilen-kosch [at] wzb.eu) know if you require special assistance.
This event will be recorded. You can find our information on data protection for photo and film recordings here.