Mental Health and Work

2225-7985 (online)
2225-7977 (print)
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The costs of mental ill-health for individuals, employers and society at large are enormous. Mental illness is responsible for a very significant loss of potential labour supply, high rates of unemployment, and a high incidence of sickness absence and reduced productivity at work. In particular, mental illness causes too many young people to leave the labour market, or never really enter it, through early moves onto disability benefit. Despite these very high costs to the individuals and the economy, there is only little awareness about the connection between mental health and work, and the drivers behind the labour market outcomes and the level of inactivity of people with mental ill-health. This series contributes to filling that knowledge gap. It offers both a general overview of the main challenges and barriers to better integrating people with mental illness in the world of work, as well as a close look at the situation in specific OECD countries.
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Mental Health and Work: Austria

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02 Oct 2015
9789264228047 (PDF) ;9789264227996(print)

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Tackling mental ill-health of the working-age population is becoming a key issue for labour market and social policies in OECD countries. OECD governments increasingly recognise that policy has a major role to play in keeping people with mental ill-health in employment or bringing those outside of the labour market back to it, and in preventing mental illness. This report on Austria is the eighth in a series of reports looking at how the broader education, health, social and labour market policy challenges identified in Sick on the Job? Myths and Realities about Mental Health and Work (OECD, 2012) are being tackled in a number of OECD countries. It concludes that the Austrian system provides good opportunities in principle for improving labour market inclusion of people with mental ill-health but that structural fragmentation of responsibilities limits the means of the federal government to develop coherent health and work policies. Successful structural reform requires including a range of actors responsible for policy implementation to achieve coordination across institutions and better integrated service delivery.

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  • Foreword

    The mental health of the working-age population is becoming a key issue in labour market and social policies in many OECD countries. It is an issue that has been neglected for too long despite the high – and growing – cost of poor mental health to people and society at large. Increasingly, OECD governments recognise that policy has a major role to play in improving the employment opportunities of the mentally unwell – particularly among the young. Policies should seek to support employees who struggle in their jobs and help them avoid long-term sickness and disability caused by mental disorder.

  • Acronyms and abbreviations
  • Executive summary

    Throughout the OECD, there is growing recognition that mental health is a major issue in social and labour market policy. Mental illness exacts a heavy price on people, employers, and the economy at large, affecting wellbeing and employment, and causing substantial productivity losses.

  • Assessment and recommendations

    Poor mental health costs the Austrian economy dear – 3.6% of GDP through lost labour productivity, increased health care expenditure, and social spending on people temporarily or permanently out of work. While the Austrian labour market is in good shape and was comparatively little affected by the recent economic downturn, at least initially, the mentally unwell underperform in the job market. Their unemployment rate is almost thrice the national average and their employment rates are lower.

  • Mental health and work challenges in Austria

    This chapter builds on the findings of the 2012 OECD report Sick on the Job? to highlight the chief challenges Austria faces in the area of mental health and work. It offers an overview of the current labour market performance of people with mental health problems in Austria compared with other OECD countries, and looks at their economic well-being. The chapter also discusses some of the structural challenges Austria must rise to if it is to achieve comprehensive reform.

  • Benefit reform in Austria to tackle widespread inactivity

    This chapter looks at the role Austria’s benefit system plays in providing people with mental ill-health with a secure income in periods of inactivity and helping them stay in, or return to, the labour market. The chapter focuses particularly on the 2013 disability benefit reform. To tap into its considerable potential, Austria must rise to the challenge of implementing rigorously the new roles of various institutions. Issues are discussed against the backdrop of the frequent mental health problems among people who receive working-age benefits and the fast increase, over the past twenty years, in the number of disability benefit claims for reasons of poor mental health.

  • Preventing labour market exit at Austrian workplaces

    The workplace plays an important role in both workers’ productivity and sickness absence and disability. Poor working conditions may negatively affect mental health, but good management and professional support can help prevent – early and effectively – the exclusion of workers with mental health problems from the workplace. This chapter considers evidence of work-related stress in Austria, working conditions, and the absenteeism and presenteeism of employees with mental health problems. It also discusses the growing focus on psychosocial work issues and the recent reform of the Labour Protection Act. The chapter highlights some sickness management regulations and sick-leave interventions.

  • Improving the job prospects of vulnerable young people in the Austrian education system

    This chapter assesses the capacity of the Austrian education system to support vulnerable children and young people with mental health disorders both in school and in the transition to the labour market. It focuses particularly on the availability of support measures for schoolchildren who suffer from mental ill-health and for their teachers and parents. It also considers to what extent the support provision has been professionalised and examines in detail recent coaching efforts to help students and apprentices stay in education or training. The success of the different support arrangements is critical in view of the relatively young age at which many young Austrians leave education.

  • Linking mental health policy in Austria to other policy fields

    Generally speaking, Austria has a differentiated, accessible health system. There are, however, capacity gaps in mental health care. Responsibilities, financing, and service provision are fragmented and centred on inpatient care, making the system costly and inefficient. There are significant regional differences in psychiatric treatment, with serious shortcomings in specialised services for children and adolescents. Mental health rehabilitation is widespread but mostly hospital-based. Despite considerable resources, waiting times for psychotherapy are long. And psychiatric treatment disregards work. This chapter discusses the main problems in Austrian mental health care and examines the system’s potential for improving job retention and returns to work among people with mental health problems.

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