The rapid economic growth of the past few decades has radically transformed India’s labour market, bringing millions of former agricultural workers into manufacturing industries, and, more recently, the expanding service industries, such as call centres and IT companies.
Alongside this employment shift has come a change in health and health problems, as communicable diseases have become less common, while non-communicable diseases, like cardiovascular problems, and mental health issues such as stress, have increased.
This interdisciplinary work connects those two trends to offer an analysis of the impact of working conditions on the health of Indian workers that is unprecedented in scope and depth.
This chapter reviews the current debates on the role of work and working conditions in the discourse on international development and explores the impact of vulnerable work and poor psychosocial working conditions on health. The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 is a welcome addition in the fight to secure decent work and ensure health and well-being in developing countries. For decades research from Europe and North America has consistently shown that being exposed to poor psychosocial working conditions, such as not having sufficient control to meet the demands at work or being inadequately rewarded for one’s efforts, can have serious negative health consequences. The extent of poor working conditions in these countries today demonstrates just how big a task the UN and associated agencies face in tackling this issue. This in turn raises the question of how Sustainable Development Goal 8, of ensuring decent work for all, will be realised.
This introductory chapter provides an overview of work, stress, and health in India. India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The growth of the Indian economy has been matched by the steady increase in its labour force. However, globalisation and rapid industrial growth in India in the last few years has led to occupational health-related issues emerging. The major factors that contribute to the high prevalence of cardiovascular diseases and neuropsychiatric disorders in India include the increase in life expectancy, changes in lifestyles, stressful living and working conditions, and general lack of support systems that enable better coping mechanisms. Ultimately, work-related stress represents a major and costly health problem for individuals, companies, and nations.
This concluding chapter argues that the chapters in this book represent some of the state-of-the-art research on the relationship between work and health in India. Both individually and collectively, they have made some significant contributions to understanding these issues. However, as India continues to go through economic and epidemiological changes, one should expect to see a rapid growth in the number of studies in this area. As such, it is important to identify areas that should be the focus of future research: (1) occupational or industry-specific studies to capture new forms of working; (2) the development of nationally representative prospective cohort studies of the work environment and health; and (3) greater multidisciplinary dialogue.
This chapter discusses how psychosocial factors at work can impact on people’s health, and how such factors have been conceptualised and measured by researchers in this field. Psychosocial factors are likely to have gained in relative importance for public health, at least in industrialised welfare states. Interest in the effects of the psychosocial work environment emerged during the 1960s when studies looked at the effects of long working hours or shift work. The scope of the research has since grown to include job insecurity, job demands, control and resources, perceived fairness and organisational justice, coping, leadership practices, threats of violence, and bullying and discrimination. The chapter also introduces stress theory and provides an overview of the major models of occupational stress used to date.