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In order to develop effective and focused strategies to uphold social cohesion and improve happiness and quality of life in Europe, it is above all necessary to understand how complex social developments interact with each other. In particular since – as this study amply demonstrates – the different circumstances in the individual EU Member States demand flexible measures that can be adapted to each specific situation.This policy brief examines how significant social cohesion is for the well-being of people in Europe.
In 2011 in Spain there were 7.6 million persons aged 16-64 who suffered from at least one chronic disease (24.8% of the total of persons in that age range). Amongst them, 3.9 million persons were occupied (i.e. 21.3% of all the occupied in Spain). In particular, back or neck problems were the most recurrent chronic health issue, affecting more than 2 million persons in total. From an age perspective, older workers are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases. On the other hand, initiatives developed by public authorities or social partners to favour the employment situation of people with chronic diseases seem to have been poorly developed in Spain.
There is no clear definition of chronic disease in Portugal.Existing data show that 40.5% of the persons aged 15-64 years have chronic disease. Musculoskeletal problems, heart problems, high blood pressure and blood circulation are the most prevalent chronic diseases. Women are particularly affected by chronic diseases, including among those who are in employment.The Portuguese Labour Code includes a set of measures aiming at protecting and supporting workers with a chronic disease or a disability. And three collective agreements dated of 2012 established clauses to support workers with reduced capacity to work.
Over the past few years, the number of people suffering from chronic diseases in Luxembourg seems to have increased. However, the notion of chronic disease is not clearly defined in Luxembourg and as a consequence, the issue of the employment situation of people with chronic diseases is not very apparent. When dealing with working conditions, the focus is more commonly placed on the broader category of disabled workers.
People with chronic diseases in general are not treated as a specific target group in employment and working conditions policies. These policies and the consequent monitoring are focused on two target groups that are closely related but not identical to people with chronic diseases: people suffering from occupational diseases and people with disabilities. Policies regarding occupational diseases are focused on improving of working conditions and include assistance in treatment of occupational diseases. Persons with disabilities are a target group of employment promotion policies.
In Italy, the Labour Force Survey 2011 ad-hoc module carried out by ISTAT is the only available survey focusing on chronic diseases. The ISFOL quality of work survey investigates their distribution. Participation in employment is lower especially for those with chronic diseases with more than one health problem or functional impairment. The most relevant work-related limitations of workers with chronic diseases are the type of tasks they can perform and the number of working hours they can work. Lack of adequate opportunities is the main problem employees’ with chronic diseases face.
According to the data, the labour force participation rate of people with chronic diseases/illnesses is 27%, which is higher than the 13% participation rate for the total number of people with disabilities. A number of Government and social partner initiatives have been put into effect over the last 10 years to raise awareness and facilitate the retention of employees with a disability/ illness. The fall in the rate of discrimination of people with a disability in the workplace between 2006 and 2011 – while the rate for people without a disability increased – as well as enhanced legislation to protect the employment of people with a disability reveals an increasing awareness of disability/illness at work in general.
Chronic diseases impact about 20% of the population but there is a lack of data and surveys about the employment of people with chronic diseases. Even if the public agency ANACT is very active in this field, employees with chronic disease are still a category of employees which has to face an increasing risk of unemployment, precarious professional career and discrimination.