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Labour productivity effects

Percentage change in labour supply due to temperature change in high-exposure sectors (agriculture;
forestry; mining and quarrying; construction) relative to the baseline period 1965-1994

Source: van Daalen et al., 2022

 

Occupational safety and health issues

Climate change affects workers’ safety and health through increased temperatures, ultraviolet radiation exposure, contact with pathogens, in- and outdoor air pollution, and extreme weather. This can result in higher health costs, reduced quality of life, and production losses (Kjellstrom et al., 2016; Dasgupta et al. 2021; Dasgupta & Robinson, 2023). 

Observed impacts

Temperature changes in Europe between the periods 2016–2019 and 1965–1994 have resulted in a 0.98% decline in labour supply (i.e., number of working hours) in the high-exposure sectors (agriculture, forestry, mining and quarrying and construction; van Daalen et al. 2022). The increased heat stress that workers are experiencing reduces work intensity and requires additional work breaks, and ultimately leads to productivity losses and economic consequences (Dasgupta et al. 2021; Dasgupta & Robinson, 2023). A field study on the behaviour of grape-picking workers in Greece found that 12% of total work shift time consisted of heat-induced irregular work breaks (Ioannou et al., 2017). Heat impacts on labour productivity are largest in outdoor sectors, but the losses can propagate to the entire economy (Schleypen et al. 2022; Dasgupta et al. 2021; García-León et al. 2021).

Projected impacts

The burden of several climate-sensitive hazards at work is expected to increase in the future. These impacts are likely to be heterogenous across Europe, with regions that are currently exposed to high temperatures expected to be impacted the most. While negative impacts of future warming in Europe are projected to be lower compared to other regions in the world (Dasgupta et al. 2021), workers in Southern Europe including Cyprus, the South Aegean (Greece), the Balearic Islands (Spain), and Liguria (Italy), are projected to suffer most from increased heat stress risk, and the highest declines in effective labour in the outdoor sector are expected in these regions (Dasgupta et al. 2021). By 2030, under RCP6 and without risk-mitigating measures, heat stress is estimated to reduce the physical work capacity of (acclimatized) outdoor workers in Southern Europe in summer months down to 60% of the maximal capacity. At the same time, metabolic rates are estimated to reduce less, which means that people would continue to work more intensely than they should, leading to serious health risks (Ioannou et al., 2022).

References

Dasgupta, S., & Robinson, E.J.Z., 2023, The labour force in a changing climate: Research and policy needs, PLOS Climate 2(1), e0000131. https://doi.org10.1371/journal.pclm.0000131

Dasgupta, S., et al., 2021, Effects of climate change on combined labour productivity and supply: an empirical, multi-model study, The Lancet Planetary Health 5(7), e455-e465. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(21)00170-4

García-León, D., et al., 2021, Current and projected regional economic impacts of heatwaves in Europe, Nature Communications 12(1), 5807. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-26050-z

Ioannou, L. G., et al., 2022, Occupational heat strain in outdoor workers: A comprehensive review and meta-analysis, Temperature 9(1), 67-102. https://doi.org/10.1080/23328940.2022.2030634

Ioannou, L.G., et al., 2017, Time-motion analysis as a novel approach for evaluating the impact of environmental heat exposure on labor loss in agriculture workers, Temperature 4(3), 330-340. https://doi.org/10.1080/23328940.2017.1338210

Kjellstrom, T., et al., 2016, Heat, Human Performance, and Occupational Health: A Key Issue for the Assessment of Global Climate Change Impacts, Annual Review of Public Health 37(1), 97-112. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-publhealth-032315-021740  

Schleypen, J.R., et al., 2022, Sharing the burden: quantifying climate change spillovers in the European Union under the Paris Agreement, Spatial Economic Analysis 17(1), 67-82. https://doi.org/10.1080/17421772.2021.1904150

van Daalen, K.R., et al., 2022, The 2022 Europe report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: towards a climate resilient future, The Lancet Public Health 7(11), E942-E965. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(22)00197-9

Links to further information

Indicator on labour supply and temperature in Europe