When work seriously damages your health

In the last 15 years, working conditions in Greece have changed radically. People today must work more intensely, have more flexible working hours to reduce company labor costs, and quickly adapt to sudden changes in the workplace, such as new technology. As a result, stress has skyrocketed, provoking work-related disorders such as musculoskeletal problems, chronic fatigue, psychological exhaustion and depression. In its 2002-2006 health and safety strategy, the European Commission warned of the risks arising from emerging illnesses such as hypertension and workplace harassment, which it cites as «a major problem today requiring legislative action.» These health disorders are responsible for 20 percent of workers’ health problems. A quarter of them lead to absenteeism from work for two or more weeks. The EU’s strategy highlighted the sensitive position of women – especially working mothers – and the growing number of workers in the 55 and over age group. Workers in these categories are more likely be victims of serious accidents with a high fatality rate and to contract cancer or cardiovascular diseases. The cost of occupational accidents and work-related health disorders in countries such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland – who have developed preventative systems for occupational hazards – amounts to more than 2.5 percent of GDP. The cost is far higher in countries such as Greece, which has no mechanism in place to comply with European directives and where occupational illnesses are not even recognized as being work-related.