Longer working hours causing increased deaths in APAC

By Kate Birch
Report from World Health Organisation and the International Labour Organisation says long working hours led to 745,000 deaths in 2016, up 29%

A new report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) says long working hours led to 745,000 deaths in 2016, up 29% on since 2000.

Work-related disease is particularly impacting men (72% of deaths were men) and people living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia. Most deaths were among those aged 60 to 79, who worked 55 hours or more per week between the ages of 45 and 74.

The number of deaths from heart disease due to long working hours rose by 42%, and from stroke by 19%.

COVID-19 pandemic sees working hours rise

The number of people working long hours is increasing, accounting for 9% of the global population. This puts more people at risk of work-related disability and early death.

Working long hours is now responsible for about one-third of the total work-related burden of disease and puts more emphasis on a more psychosocial occupational risk factor.

The analysis comes as the world is working even longer hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic and people working harder from home.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way many people work,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work. In addition, many businesses have been forced to scale back or shut down operations to save money, and people who are still on the payroll end up working longer hours. No job is worth the risk of stroke or heart disease.

“Governments, employers and workers need to work together to agree on limits to protect the health of workers.”

The report says stakeholders can take the following actions:   

  • governments can introduce laws, regulations and policies that ban mandatory overtime and ensure limits on working time
  • employers and workers can arrange working time to be more flexible and agreeing on a maximum number of working hours
  • employees could share working hours

The report was published in Environment International.


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