Employers and most European governments tell us we will all have to work for longer. But how can workers in backbreaking jobs do that? As it is, many never manage to work out a full career due to physical or mental burnout. When asked in 2010, "Will you still be able to do the same job when you are 60 years old?", 41% of European workers replied “no”.
The debate on upping the retirement age is meaningful only if it includes working conditions, particularly unequal exposure to hazardous substances and the gender impact on the quality of working life. This is not just something for politicians and the establishment – it affects all workers.
Researchers, public officials, trade unionists and other social stakeholders explored these critical issues at a two-day conference on 10 and 11 December 2013 in Brussels. The conference looked in particular to three areas where the hardships of work are a big issue: building, motor manufacturing and shopwork.
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