Inequality in the social consequences of illness: how well do people with long-term illness fare in the British and Swedish labor markets?

Int J Health Serv. 2000;30(3):435-51. doi: 10.2190/6PP1-TDEQ-H44D-4LJQ.


The demand for unskilled labor has collapsed across industrialized societies, including Britain and Sweden, and rates of unemployment and economic inactivity have increased. The result is a reduction in total employment, primarily among men. These trends could be expected to hit particularly hard those people with chronic illness. The study tests two opposing hypotheses: (1) the increasingly flexible, deregulated labor market in Britain would result in an increased number of new jobs, and thus better employment opportunities for unskilled workers, including those with chronic illness; (2) the more regulated labor market in Sweden, with the associated health and social policies, would provide greater opportunities for jobs and job security for workers with chronic illness. Analysis of data on men from the British General Household Survey and the Swedish Survey of Living Conditions, 1979-1995, showed that employment rates were higher and rates of unemployment and economic inactivity were lower in Sweden than in Britain, and the differences in these rates across socioeconomic groups and between those with and without chronic illness were smaller in Sweden. The results support the hypothesis that active labor market policies and employment protection may increase the opportunities for people with chronic illness to remain in work.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease / economics
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Employment / trends
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Professional Competence
  • Public Policy*
  • Social Justice
  • Social Security / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology