Chapter 13

The Health and Wellbeing Effects of Active Labor Market Programs

Adam P. Coutts

University of Cambridge, U.K.

David Stuckler

University of Oxford, U.K.

David J. Cann

University of Cambridge, U.K.


Does losing your job make you ill? Can government policies protect and promote the wellbeing of unemployed people during difficult economic times? How can we understand the relationships between work, participation in labor market programs, and health? To address these questions, employment status and working conditions can be expressed in terms of their psychosocial, as well as material, characteristics to help elucidate why labor market shocks, such as unemployment, pose risks to health. Understanding work and worklessness in these terms enables researchers to relate the effects of labor market experiences to health and wellbeing. A recent example of such an approach was Fair Society, Healthy Lives (Marmot, 2010), which examined a large range of evidence to argue that unemployment and employment are linked to health deficits in various ways. It is generally accepted by researchers and policy makers that employment provides a range of psychosocial benefits leading to greater wellbeing. However, less well known are the health effects of government social interventions known as active labor market programs (ALMPs).

In the United Kingdom, for example, evidence on the effects of ALMPs and government training programs used to deliver them deal almost exclusively with ...

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