Presenteeism as social suffering: absenteeism in an Era of Resilience

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Historically, ensuring that employees turn up regularly at work (and at the right time) has been a central problem of workplace management. For that reason, absenteeism can be seen as part of industrial conflict at the workplace level where economic incentives in particular have been used to promote desired employee behaviours (Thompson 1967; Edwards 1986). Throughout Europe focus on sickness absence policies has increased in recent years coinciding with the neoliberalisation of the labour market and public expenditure on welfare goods such as sickness benefits where the overall logic changes from one of emancipation to ‘competition’ (cf. Taylor et al 2010; Hansen 2012). It is in this light, the emergence of presenteeism (i.e. going ill to work despite ill health) as a research agenda should be seen (Johns 2010): sickness presence (SP) is probably as old a phenomenon as sickness absence yet it is only during the last 15 years it has been studied intensively. Whereas SP may be thought of as a necessary strategy of survival in societies with no surplus food, it becomes more puzzling in contemporary societies. In Denmark, most employees can take sick leave without economic consequences and despite this more than 70% of the work force report going ill to work at least once a year (Hansen & Andersen 2008). In this paper, SP is analysed as a social pathology and I try to answer some of the following questions: To what extent is going to work despite having pains or being ill an example of social suffering? Is SP the result of individualising industrial conflicts that would formerly have resulted in strikes or work stoppage? Does this mean that resilience (understood e.g. as the capability to work while ill) becomes a prerequisite to participate on the labour market?
StatusUdgivet - 2017
BegivenhedThe Social Pathologies of Contemporary Civilization: 7th International Conference - Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt, Tyskland
Varighed: 19 okt. 201720 okt. 2017
Konferencens nummer: 7


KonferenceThe Social Pathologies of Contemporary Civilization