Does investing in labour market policies (such as protective policies offering social provision for those out of work, or integrative policies aiding employment) lead to a less stressed workforce? It would seem so; data taken from thousands of citizens, and across 16 European countries, revealed that countries with stronger labour market policies generally reported lower levels of worker stress. In addition a positive association between stress (low work control/effort-reward imbalance) and lower educational attainment was found. Within this correlation it appears that more robust labour market policies not only reduced work stress overall, but also reduced the difference in stress experienced between workers of differing educational attainment.

These findings held even when adjusting for factors such as occupation – meaning even those in the same job had reduced stress if they had attained a higher level of education. Importantly, integrative labour market policies, such as training for the unemployed, had a greater association with lower stress levels than more passive policies (those based around job loss compensation e.g. early retirement/unemployment benefits). This is possibly a result of integrative policies’ tendency to target disadvantaged groups, and having greater impact in terms of lowering overall labour market disadvantage. With work-related stress leading to reduced physical and mental health, this study provides evidence that policy makers should step up investments in protective and integrative labour market policies to reduce health inequalities.

The study: ‘The Association between Education and Work Stress: Does the Policy Context Matter?’ can be found here: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0121573.

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