THRIVE: Tackling health inequalities through extending working lives

In Europe and Canada, policymakers are facing particular challenges related to rising life expectancy, a shift in the age profile of the population, and the consequent increase in the prevalence of chronic illness and disability. But these increases in life expectancy are not experienced equally – there are inequalities that are frequently overlooked in policymaking.

Less-skilled workers, for example, have a shorter life expectancy, earlier onset of chronic illness and disability, are more likely to suffer multi-morbidities as they get older. Policymakers in Europe and Canada urgently need to develop strategies that fairly extend working life taking these health inequalities into account.

Our aim is to conduct transnational research that advances understanding of the differential impacts of health inequalities on the opportunity to work later in life and of strategies and policies for extending working life that take these health inequalities into consideration.

Our consortium

The THRIVE project will bring together partners from the UK, Canada, Sweden and Denmark – countries which are all struggling with similar policy problems, but have been experimenting with a variety of strategies to tackle these problems. The THRIVE members are all leaders in health inequalities and employment research and have successfully collaborated with one another over a number of years.

Our research approach

We will use comparative quantitative analysis of population datasets in each country to determine how the pattern of morbidity and co-morbidity with different physical and mental health conditions and caring responsibilities varies over working life by socioeconomic status and gender in different countries and how this is changing over time.

We will estimate how the employment consequences of different longstanding illnesses at older ages vary between countries, the reasons for this and the implications for policies that extend working lives.

International comparative policy analysis will elucidate the different policy approaches taken in the study countries and identify effective strategies. A series of systematic reviews of the quantitative and qualitative evidence will identify which policy approaches are likely to be most effective for extending the working lives of people with longstanding illness, particularly those from more disadvantaged groups.

Synthesis of evidence from the reviews and analysis of national datasets will indicate how health inequalities are having an impact on the opportunity to work later in life in each country, how this is likely to develop in the future, and the strategies and policies that are most likely to extend healthy working lives fairly.