Australian Economy Losing $12 billion a year Due To This Issue Which Is Not Even Debated
IT’S a problem we don’t like to talk about, that we find too embarrassing and complicated to be really open about and it’s costing the Australian economy an incredible $12 billion a year.
From lower wages to higher taxes to a spiralling cost of living, mental health issues can be extraordinarily expensive for everyone.
It is estimated that between 20 and 30 per cent of the workforce will suffer from a serious mental health problem at some point in their working life including anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.
There were 2866 deaths by suicide in 2016, slightly down from a 10-year high of 3027 in 2015. For every death by suicide, it is estimated that as many as 30 people attempt to end their lives — around 85,980 a year.
An estimated 13,545 workers experience non-fatal suicidal behaviour each year, with 2303 resulting in full incapacity and 11,242 needing a short absence from work.
Mental health has been found to affect job involvement, job satisfaction, loyalty, performance, absence, turnover and physical health.
That’s why experts say this national crisis needs drastic action, to stop money haemorrhaging from the economy at a faster and faster rate
These invisible illnesses can generate huge costs firstly for the employer, if the worker is unable to speak up and engages in “presenteeism” — turning up but not functioning properly, or has to take multiple sick days and long-term leave.
It frequently hits the worker the hardest, with many sufferers losing their jobs, or finding their sick pay quickly ran out.
Then there’s the taxpayer, who has to pay extra for goods because of struggling employees, and fund mental health services and benefits — which are typically even higher if the problem has been left to fester for long periods of time.
‘AN EMOTIONAL STORM IS COMING, IT’S JUST A QUESTION OF WHEN’
Pedro Diaz, from the Workplace Mental Health Institute, told news.com.au Australians need to be “future-proofing” their workload as well as relationships, lifestyle and finances.
“If you know a bushfire is coming, you take steps, clean the gutter, board the windows,” he said. “We know an emotional storm is coming, it’s just a question of when. Are we future-proofing business? That’s what we do with managers, they need to be ready.
“As a manager, you need information as to the state of your workforce. It’s also a human problem. It impacts the productivity of a team, it’s going to operate in sluggish way.”
Mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces $4.7 billion in absenteeism, $6.1 billion in presenteeism and $145.9 million in compensation claims, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
It estimated that every dollar spent on effective workplace mental health actions may generate $2.30 in benefits to an organisation — a 2.3 per cent return on investment.
When things go wrong is when people don’t feel valued,” said Mr Diaz. “There’s a difference between valuing someone and making them feel valued.
“If it’s not successful it impacts the relationship, in extreme cases they can suffer anxiety or depression. It’s even worse if things are going wrong at home.
“If people are not feeling connected, that’s an issue … people are isolated. Other industries are more macho, you have to pretend to be well for a career. Other industries don’t have a lot of movement and you’re always sitting in static position.
“The best thing to do is not wait for this to happen but take action. Preparation is better than cure.”
WHAT’S AUSTRALIA’S PROBLEM?
Australia has a reputation for being a healthy country, with a deep love of sport, nature and an outdoor lifestyle.
But while we consistently perform strongly in other measures of wellbeing such as environment, civic engagement and physical health, we are weak in areas including work/life balance and indigenous disadvantage.
Australians work extremely long hours, with 20 per cent of men and 7 per cent of women in paid employment working 50 hours or more per week in 2015, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. That puts us 27th out of the 35 OECD countries.
Perhaps more significantly, the report found that it was not the number of hours worked that mattered but whether these hours accord with an individual’s work preferences.
“Regardless of the number of hours worked, if an individual’s preferences did not align with their working hours, they reported lower levels of satisfaction and poorer mental health than individuals whose preferences aligned with their working hours,” said AIHW director Barry Sandison. “This was true for both underemployed and over-employed workers.”
The Government has boasted of jobs growth, but Australians are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain sustainable work.
In 2017, just 27 per cent of young people were in full-time work, compared to 48 per cent three decades ago. More than a third were working part-time, compared with just 13 per cent 30 years ago, and those with less formal education were less likely to be employed in 2016 than they were in 2008.
Researchers have found that mental health issues for workers are related to a number of factors, including high job demand (e.g. time pressures) and low control (e.g. decision-making capacity.)
Another important element was job opportunity and security. Roles that offer variety, interest and feedback are associated with higher levels of workplace wellbeing. Job insecurity, lack of resources or learning opportunities and a disproportionate pressure to perform are associated with poor workplace mental health.
In the current job landscape, where our working lives are characterised by a lack of fulfilment, under-employment, boredom, pressure, insecure part-time or casual work, underpayment and few opportunities, it’s no wonder we are more stressed than we’ve ever been.
It’s a crisis we urgently need to address.