In Austria, a decline in the number of persons on sick leave can be observed over the medium as well as long term. This trend is accompanied by a shortening of average sick spells and an increase in short-term sick leaves. At the same time, a shift can be found in the ranking of causes – thus injuries are down while mental problems are on the rise. Underlying these trends are developments caused by structural change, reflected foremost in the sectoral and occupational structure of the labour market. As is indicated by the accidents at work example, the greater prevalence of high-skilled white-collar occupations and the shifting of labour-intensive production with its inherent health-related risks to third countries have had a positive impact on sickness statistics. As a result, the gap between sick leave spells among blue- and white-collar workers is diminishing. Such structural aspects are overlaid by institutional as well as economic cycle and economic policy changes. The high fluctuation of sick leave rates among older workers signals that the modes of transition used between employment, unemployment and retirement are of great importance for sick leave figures.
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