Work and health in Latin America: results from the working conditions surveys of Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Central America and Uruguay

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Abstract

Objective

To describe working and employment conditions, and health status between non-agricultural employees with a written contract from Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Central America and Uruguay.

Methods

We compared data from the first working condition surveys (WCS) of Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Central America and Uruguay. For comparative purposes, we selected a subsample of 15 241 non-agricultural employees aged 18–64 years and working with a written contract. We calculated prevalences and 95% CIs for the selected variables on working and employment conditions, and health status, separated by sex.

Results

Across all countries, at least 40% of women and 58% of men worked >40 hours a week. The most prevalent exposures were repetitive movements, followed by noise and manual handling, especially among men. Psychosocial exposures were very common among both sexes. Workers in Chile (33.4% of women and 16.6% of men) and Central America (24.3% of women and 19.1% of men) were more likely to report poor self-perceived health and were least likely to do so in Colombia (5.5% of women and 4.2% of men). The percentage of workers reporting occupational injuries was <10% across all countries.

Conclusions

This study provides, for the first time, a broad picture of work and health in different Latin American countries, based on the national WCSs available. This allows for a better understanding of occupational health and could serve as a baseline for future research and surveillance of work and health in the Region. However, greater efforts are needed to improve WCSs comparability.

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