Work pressure – the mental health implications

Work pressure – the mental health implications

By Liz Lockhart

The study reported below comes at a time when both men and women are feeling the strain of pressure at work.  With threatened job cuts and redundancy the pressure not only to perform well at work, but also to over-perform is felt by many. 

The findings of this report from two American universities sheds new light on gender roles at work and 'work related stress' felt by all.  Just as women are struggling to juggle things to keep up with their male counterparts, the pressures for men have never been greater. 

We have, quite rightly, moved on from the days of a woman being expected to simply stay at home full time to look after the house and children, but with this comes more expectations for men to do more at home too.  This rightful expectation places a burden on both working men and women and can create imbalance at home and in the workplace.

The study has shown that overworking hinders women and has helped slow growth in women occupying professional and managerial occupations.  Overworking is classified as putting in 50 Hours a week or more according to the sociologists from Indiana University and Cornell University.

Currently, women now earn an estimated 81% of what men earn. During the last 30 years the gap between the percentage of women working full-time compared to men has shrunk, most of the decline in the wage gender gap occurred in the 1980’s. However, during the same period the gender gap involving long working hours has changed little and remains large. 

Dr. Youngjoo Cha, sociologist from Indiana University said ‘Women, even when employed full time, typically have more family obligations than men.

‘This limits their availability for the ‘greedy occupations’ that require long work hours, such as high level managers, lawyers and doctors. In these occupations, workers are often evaluated based on their face time.’

For this study researchers reviewed the data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and discovered the relative hourly wage of overworkers compared to full-time workers has increased substantially over the last three decades.  As a greater percentage of male workers are overworking, this change is of greater benefit to men than it is to women. However we do question what the health implications are as stress related diseases and mental illness continue to rise.

‘Gender gaps in overwork, when coupled with rising returns to overwork, exacerbate the gender gap in wages’ Cha said. ‘New ways of organizing work are reproducing old forms of inequality.’

The study found that:

• In 1979, 15 percent of men and 3 percent of women worked 50 hours or more per week. These percentages peaked in the late 1990s at 19 percent of men and 7 percent of women. The percentage for men decreased slightly during the 2000s, possibly due to the effects of the recession on occupations overrepresented by men, and has remained stagnant for women.

• The real wages of men who worked 50 hours or more per week increased 54 percent between 1979 and 2009. The wages of women who worked the same hours increased, too, by 94 percent. The wages of standard full-time workers (35 or more hours, but less than 50 hours) increased 13 percent for men and 46 percent for women between the same years.

• The rising price of overwork slowed the decrease in the gender wage gap by 9.2 percent between 1979 and 2007. The effect is large enough to offset the gains achieved by narrowing the education gap.

• The increase in overwork was most prominent in professional and managerial occupations, as was the increase in wages paid to overworkers. In these occupations, the rising price of overwork had the greatest impact on the gender gap in wages — in managerial occupations, for example, the gender gap in wages would be 34 percent smaller if prices for overwork had remained constant.

• Overwork compensation can be compared to standard full-time wages by breaking them down into an hourly wage. In 1979, men who overworked earned 14 percent less than men who worked fulltime once their pay was spread over the longer hours, and women saw a 19 percent penalty. Pay for overwork has increased so rapidly over the years that now men and women both earn a six percent premium in this hourly wage comparison.

This study ties in with our report from yesterday about 'Super Mum, and her risk of depression'.

Source: Indiana University  

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