Sunday, December 11, 2011

Shift work and health

Interesting article from the Baltimore Sun discussing issues about shift work and its health effects.  One big link is to obesity.  Obesity is linked to type II diabetes and to breast cancer in women.

What does this lead us to consider?  Well, do the men and women who perform shift work understand the risks?  Are they compensated for the risks?  (And should they be?)  Are there things that employers can do about some of the risks?  Are there things that employers should to do help employees  mitigate some of the risks?  What is the role for government as opposed to just leaving this to the market?

In general, as an economist, I would think that this type of issue could be worked out in the private sector--if everyone has all the information and understands the choices, then there should be a way for people who work night shifts to get paid more.  They may, already, to a degree although this was generally thought to be an issue of convenience  and what people liked.  It is not clear to what degree the new information would change existing relationships and how long it would take the new information to filter through the process of wage setting.

So, I would end up asking whether there may be some role for the government to try to accelerate the process of this information working its way through the system.  And, if so, what are the costs and health effects of such an activity.  Do they compare favorably?


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  2. They may, already, to a degree Ab Glider although this was generally thought to be an issue of convenience and what people liked.