Life expectancy lower for poorly skilled

A study by cantonal labour office in Geneva has found that people in low-skilled jobs are more likely to die before reaching pensionable age than their white-collar counterparts.

This content was published on August 18, 2000 - 16:20

Over 25 per cent of roadsweepers, factory labourers and general industrial workers died before reaching the age of 65 - the pensionable age for men in Switzerland.

In contrast, only 10 per cent of chemists, economists and teachers died before becoming pensioners.

The survey looked at what had happened to 5,000 men from the canton who were born in the late 1930s, and who by now should have reached pensionable age. This information was then compared with the mens' occupations to see if a pattern emerged.

Massimo Usel, who was involved in the research, said the survey had some striking results: "The trend shows that white collar workers have far fewer health problems than manual labourers. Differences in mortality rates between the categories were also pronounced."

Most striking was the difference in life expectancy between building workers and senior managers.

"Nearly half of building-workers were dead or invalided before they reached the normal retirement age," Usel said.

The percentage for senior managers was about 15 per cent.

Usel said the difference could not be accounted for solely by the type of work involved. "Manual workers don't eat as well or don't have access to the best health care."

He said other factors influencing life expectancy were likely to be the work environment and out-of-work activities.

Usel said it was clear from the findings that inequality was the main cause of premature death. He said blue-collar workers were getting a raw deal, since they "worked their whole life and then either died before or early into their retirement."

He added: "That needs to change. Ways of working need to be re-examined".

The findings are likely to influence the on-going debate about the country's pension system.

swissinfo with agencies

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