Saturday, May 7, 2011

An introduction to Globalization and Unhealthy Work

The following blog is the first in a series looking at globalization. The major part of the blog is a reproduction of my abstract THE ROLE OF GLOBALIZATION IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF UNHEALTHY WORKING CONDITIONS, which I will present at the NIOSH, sponsored conference Work, Stress and Health 2011 to be held May 19-22 at the Doubletree Hotel in Orlando Florida. The focus of the meeting is "Work and Well-Being in an Economic Context.  You can visit the APA's website for more information about the meeting.

It may be helpful to the reader to understand that my training is in Medicine and Epidemiology. I study health outcomes (epidemics) for clues to their causes (my main research interest has been examining the impact of working conditions on hypertension and obesity). Research done by myself and many of my colleagues world-wide strongly supports the conclusion that working conditions influenced by the processes of globalization are having a substantial impact on many health outcomes. In my abstract below I outline the basic argument. In subsequent blogs this perspective will be expanded utilizing topical news events to highlight relevant issues. (see for example Blog's #2 and #3 posted earlier for examples of this approach).

Finally, I plan to create a dictionary of relevant terms to help the reader understand the issues. So we will be defining various concepts as we go along and adding this to a blog that consists only of definitions. Aspects of globalization such as offshoring, outsourcing, and contingent labor, inter alia and of work organization and psychosocial stressors such as long work hours and job strain inter alia will be defined.

Finally, here is my abstract!


Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) has become the #1 cause of morbidity and mortality in the world. More than 1.1 billion people have coronary artery disease and another 1 billion have hypertension, exceeding even poverty as the primary cause of ill-health and death. The recent large increase in the prevalence of CVD in China ( a non-existent disease in China 50 years ago) and other developing countries provided further evidence that CVD, as an epidemic and public health crisis, is of rather recent origin - rooted in the structure of modern societies and associated with industrialization and globalization. This conclusion is supported by the observation that the "traditional" risk factors for CVD such as hypertension, hypercholestrolemia due to diets rich in fat, cigarette consumption, obesity and diabetes are all of recent historical development as well.

The processes of globalization - the steadily increasing inter-dependency of world economies, production, trade, technology and culture - is having an enormous impact on work, work organization and the health of working people. There is now increasing competition among nations and between corporations, as resources grow more scarce. The ongoing need for corporate profitability drives restructuring and downsizing, outsourcing, more and more precarious labor and increasing job insecurity, as well as increased time pressure and intensification of work. Companies search for the cheapest labor markets creating a "race to the bottom" for wages.

These changes in work organization, in turn, give rise to psychosocial stressors such as job strain, effort-reward imbalance, emotional labor, threat-avoidant-vigilant work, organizational injustice, long work hours and work weeks, and shift work, which increase stress and can lead to chronic illnesses, including mental and physical health problems. Psychosocial stressors play important roles in promoting CVD risk factors such as obesity and hypertension.

Research findings explicating the inter-relationship between capitalist economic developments, globalization, changes in work organizations, psychosocial stressors and CVD risk factors will be presented. The economic consequences of these changes and the implications for the health of working people will be discussed and a strategy for promoting healthy work will be presented.


  1. Readers should note that the Whitehall study has access to data on other work related risk factors including psychosocial variables such as job strain which were not included in the analyses done in this paper. It will be interesting to see future studies where all of these variables are included. buy from china