Tuesday, 7 May 2024

Why Long Work Hours Harm Health and Gender Equality: Insights from Australia and Germany

Australia-Germany Research Collaboration Seminar

led by Professor Lyndall Strazdins from the Australian National University

In 2021, the World Health Organization ranked long hours as one of the most important work-related global health hazards. Yet, despite decades of solid evidence on their health harms, work hour limits are routinely violated overtly or covertly in many countries, including Australia and Germany, and long hours remain a tacit “rule” for good jobs, good pay and career success. Because long work hours are incompatible with care and domestic work, they pose a problem for gender equality in earnings and labour market opportunities. 

In this presentation, we gain insights from a recent German-Australian collaboration using representative, longitudinal data from Australia and Germany (103,015 – 109,886 observations, HILDA and SOEP surveys). We first show how the capacity to work “extra” time leads to far higher earnings in both countries. We then model how this creates different health harms for men and women to work in good jobs, because of women’s “other job” (unpaid work in the home) that also takes time. Our findings reveal that women’s health is compromised considerably more than men’s by working long hours because of the extra hours they work in the home. Our estimates indicate that men, on average, can work 10 to 14 hours longer than women without a health cost because of men’s lower share of unpaid care and domestic work. Irrespective of work experience or education, for women to earn equally and hold high paying jobs like men do, they must pay a higher health cost. This higher cost shapes the ‘glass ceiling’ and perpetuates gender inequality in earnings and career success with potential long-lasting harm for women’s financial status and well-being in old age. We conclude the seminar by discussing recent research on why attempts to change long hours are often resisted by workplaces and policy-makers.

Coffee/Tea, soft drinks, and cakes will follow the seminar.



Barrier-free WZB: The venue is wheelchair accessible. Please let Friederike Theilen-Kosch (friederike.theilen-kosch [at] wzb.eu) know if you require special assistance.

This event will be recorded. You can find our information on data protection for photo and film recordings here.