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Work absence rates

  • Estimates from the Labour force survey reveal a steady rising trend in both work absence incidence and time lost for personal reasons (own illness or disability, and other personal and family demands) between 1997 and 2002. Several factors accounted for the rising trend: notably, the aging of the workforce; the growing share of women in the workforce, especially mothers with young children; high stress among workers and the increasing prevalence of generous sick and family-related leave at the workplace.

  • In an average week in 1997, excluding women on maternity leave, about 5.5% (484,000) of all full-time employees holding one job were absent from work for all or part of the week for personal reasons. By 2002, the figure had risen to 7.6% (771,000). Total work time missed for these reasons also rose steadily, from 3.0% of the weekly scheduled work time in 1997 to 3.6% in 2002. Extrapolated over the full year, work time lost for personal reasons increased from the equivalent of 7.4 days per worker in 1997 to 9.0 days in 2002. Work absences due to own illness or disability as well as those due to other personal or family responsibilities witnessed continuous increases during the period.

  • The steadily rising trend stalled in 2003. That year, the incidence fell to 7.3%, but the days lost per worker (9.1 days) were a shade higher than the year before, suggesting that absence durations in 2003 were generally longer. Whether this is the beginning of a new trend is too early to speculate.

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