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Beyond MedicineWhy European Social Democracies Enjoy Better Health Outcomes Than the United States$
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Paul V. Dutton

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781501754555

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501754555.001.0001

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Workers’ Health in the United States and Germany

Workers’ Health in the United States and Germany

(p.65) 2 Workers’ Health in the United States and Germany
Beyond Medicine

Paul V. Dutton

Cornell University Press

This chapter explores the institutions and policies that influence the health of working-age Germans and Americans. Work (or the absence of paid work) is one of the most important determinants of health in advanced industrial societies. The nature of one's work differentially determines one's risk of unemployment, which is strongly linked to heightened rates of mortality and morbidity. Work also bears directly on health through potential exposure to toxic agents and other physical dangers. No less important are the psychosocial dimensions of the work environment. Substantial evidence links greater employee control of the workplace to better health outcomes. Conversely, a relative absence of worker power is detrimental to health. The development of employee participation in German firm management began in the 1920s, culminating in the Codetermination Law of 1976. That law mandates that workers' representatives fill half the supervisory board seats in all firms with more than two thousand employees. The chapter then considers the links between German workers' enhanced psychosocial work environments and their superior health status in comparison to their American counterparts.

Keywords:   German workers, American workers, paid work, health, industrial societies, work environments, worker power, employee participation, German firm management, Codetermination Law of 1976

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