Working conditions and health: Evidence on inequalities in Spain

Meritxell Solé Juvés

May 12, 2014

Luis Diaz Serrano | Marisol Rodríguez

This thesis is concerned with the relationship between disability and working conditions. In the first two chapters we investigate how past and current working conditions, in conjunction with other socio-demographic variables, contribute to disability. We focus on differences by migrant status (first chapter) and by period or cohort (second chapter) specifically, by comparing successive cohorts of young people aged 25 to 34. In the third chapter we take up the opposite perspective and we analyse the effect of permanent disability on the working life of the individual. The main result of the first chapter is that migrant status – with differences among regions of origin – significantly affects both disability and the probability of being employed in a high-risk occupation. In spite of immigrants’ working conditions being objectively worse, they exhibit lower probability of becoming disabled than natives because the impact of such conditions on disability is much smaller in their case. Our results also suggest that not only the risks of illness and injury, widely recognized, involve higher rates of disability. Unskilled labour and employment instability are also associated with increased risks of disability and its impact is greatest among later-born cohorts, as the second chapter reveals. Attending to differences by cohort, job insecurity has a significant and huge impact on disability for all birth cohorts. By contrast, the effect of temporary employment “per se” is controversial without considering other factors, like the changes in Employment Protection Legislation motivated by the labour market reforms of the last two decades. Finally, the results of the third chapter show that only 10% of disabled people remain in the labour market after the occurrence of the disability. The potential disincentives to employment are controversial. While it is true that higher disability pensions are associated with lower probabilities of employment, it is also observed that, in general, wages and income decreases as a result of a disability, being the decision of remaining out of the labour market not entirely attributable to the worker and his pension level. Conversely, it is plausible that the alleged disincentives to employment come too, and largely, from the labour market. The wage gap between workers with and without IP are high and significant, and only in part can be explained by differences in productivity, so that the unexplained difference could be attributed to discrimination in the labour market against people with disability. The data sets employed in the three chapters have been elaborated from the Continuous Sample of Working Lives, known as the MCVL in Spanish (from “Muestra Continua de Vidas Laborales”), a Spanish administrative data set containing work histories of workers and pensioners available since 2004.