Work is a process that, when attempted to be given a definition, appears to have a very different meaning and value to almost every individual. It could range from, what would be fare to be called, the Marxian approach, where all of the results of any purpose driven actions of an individual, that are changing the surrounding material environment, are that individuals "natural" need; that is originating from within and is the part of individual"s self development (Ritzer and Goodman, 2003). To the somewhat more modern view, of work being a necessary tool for the existence, in the socially competitive environment of economical survival (Fincham and Rhodes, 1988). Similar dilemma appears to exist in regard of definition of health; for the purpose of this essay the World Health Organisation definition is the most corresponding one and it declares that:
"Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
Regardless of what school of thought is being subscribed to, it is fare to say that work is a process, which in a modern society, takes up a large proportion of time of any individual and certainly has an effect on the individual"s health. Therefore the aim of this essay is to attempt to take a look at the factors which are resulting from the individual"s participation in the work process or contrary, individual"s inability to participate, and to see how they are affecting the individual"s health.
The objective data used for this essay is going to be based on The London Borough of Tower Hamlets. This borough is known to have a very unique economy, social structure and demography, combining the one of the world"s strongest financial districts with the one of the most diverse and disadvantaged communities in Western Europe (The London Borough of Tower Hamlets, 2011). This combination creates a community, which allows in this essay, the examination of the wide range of scenarios.
Prior to in-depth look at the relevant information, within the community of The London Borough of Tower Hamlets, it is necessary to define the term community itself. This, according to the Crow and Ritzer (2007) is not an easy thing to do, simply because there are so many contentious, defining characteristics of the concept of the community. For example the more conventional definition of community arises from the individuals sharing a geographical area, such as a Borough, and as a result of a close proximity, these individuals are brought together (Crow and Ritzer, 2007). This is clearly not the case for the majority of modern borough population due to the lack of face-to-face connection and because of the extent of urbanisation and distances that individuals have to of travel to work. On the other side of the spectrum is the definition of the community, which does not require the individuals involved, to have any close connection at all, and rather have a common sense of identity; a good example of that is a nation (Crow and Ritzer, 2007).
Therefore in order for the term community to be relevant to this essay, it has to be combining in some form, both of the aforementioned definitions. As an example of that, the Etzioni (1996) defines community as:
"a web of affect-laden relationships among a group of individuals, relationship that often crisscross and reinforce one another (as opposed to one-on-one relationships); and a measure of commitment to a set of share histories and identities - in short, a particular culture." (Etzioni, 1996)
This definition of the community will allow the essay to clearly distinguish and separate the cultural sub-communities within a larger, geography based community of The London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Consequently, these clearly defined cultural sub-communities are easier to study, and allow the use of more objective statistical data, provided by the borough.
Although, the clear definition allows for a more focused and simplified research. It is just as important to describe and investigate the methods of research, which are used for this essay, and the information sources, which provided objective and subjective data.
Traditionally, the majority of the social science research is using the qualitative methods, meaning that the researcher, in order to achieve the results has to look at the subject of the research from the subject"s perspective and understand the social context in which the subject exists (Hewstone, Stroebe and Jonas, 2008). The other benefit of the qualitative method is the use of the ordinary language in description of the research outcome, rather than a purely numerical data. The opposite of the qualitative method is a quantitative method, which concentrates on obtaining the calculable data such as statistics, which is later used to confirm the theoretical hypothesis (Hewstone et al, 2008). The qualitative and the quantitative methods include such effective tools as: interviews, survey questioners, observations, statistical data; but due to constrain of this essay some of these tools are not going to be used. Taking that in to consideration, it is clear that for the purpose of this essay it is useful to use the combination of both the qualitative and the qualitative methods.
The primary source of information, for the major part of this essay is an objective data, which is provided by The London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is mostly accessible online or in some cases it could be found in the borough"s libraries. Secondary sources include data provided by the governmental bodies, such as the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Office of National Statistics. This data is presented in the form of the research reports, periodic assessments or strategic plans and contains both the statistics and the conclusions of the research made by the researching departments.
The clear advantage of use of these sources of information is the access to the amount of the statistical data, which is otherwise unavailable to the researcher. Therefore, if used correctly the correlation of information from different sources, is enabling the researcher to obtain the wider perspective on the subject of this essay. Also, the researcher needs to be aware of the possible disadvantage, brought by these information sources; as it was highlighted even by Marx, that the content of distributed information is dictated by the interest of economical power (Ritzer and Goodman, 2003). Another aspect resulting from these information sources is the time span that takes to collect this data, as an advantage the researcher often gains the results of the study over an extensive period of time. Simultaneously as a disadvantage, due to the amount of time it takes to process all of this data, it is not current when it is finally available to the researcher.
The in depths look in to the information provided by The London Borough of Tower Hamlets (2011) and the Office of National statistics (2006) shows a controversial picture, even if the researcher remains conscious of the possible bias of the aforementioned information sources.
First of all The London Borough of Tower Hamlets (2011) provides the five percent of London"s total job market, at the same time it has the unemployment rate that exceeds the twelve percent of local population; which is twice the London average, and is currently number one in the country in that aspect. Also, the thirty percent, of the population of the whole of the East London, is currently working in The London Borough of Tower Hamlets (2011), and it still has an excess of sixty thousand unfilled jobs. Statistics shows the employment growth in Tower Hamlets at around six percent per year, being four times the rate of the whole of the London; inconsequently of that the majority of the workforce is commuting in, from the outside and less than twenty percent of the jobs in the borough are taken by the local residence (The London Borough of Tower Hamlets, 2011).
This could be partially explained by an unusual distribution of the available employment, by type of the occupation, within the borough. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets, (2011) has over fifty five percent of its job market within the financial services and the business services; they are offering some entry-level jobs and some extremely well paid jobs, but as it has been established by the borough, the career progression in these fields from intermediate level and upwards, is limited for the local residence (The London Borough of Tower Hamlets, 2011).
The situation is complicated by the ethnic diversity, which translates in to over forty five percent of Tower Hamlets population being non-white, and over thirty five percent within non-white are from Bangladesh and Pakistan community (ONS, 2001). It is important to highlight at this point, that in Tower Hamlets the manufacturing jobs comprise only two percent of total borough job market (ONS, 2001). The combination of the aforementioned large proportion of population, which historically worked in manufacturing, and also has substantial human capital problems, with change in availability of local manufacturing jobs; created large number of totally workless households (Department for Work and Pensions, 2006).
It is necessary to clarify that, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (2006), human capital problem of Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities, is the result of these communities having the lowest level of qualifications, amongst the immigrants aged sixteen and over. As of year 1994 the seventy five percent of Bangladeshi and sixty three percent of Pakistani migrants had no, or extremely low level of qualification; contrary to that the attainment levels of Bangladeshi and Pakistani pupils in Tower Hamlets schools, below the age of sixteen, have been the highest amongst the main ethnic groups (Department for Work and Pensions, 2006).
Combination of the aforementioned economical and demographical factors has created a situation where the borough with the largest gross domestic product, out of ten Thames Gateway boroughs, at the same time is ranked as the third most deprived borough in the country (The London Borough of Tower Hamlets, 2011).
These levels of depravation and unemployment, combined with the aggravating factor of the higher rate of worklessness in the larger families, which are traditional in the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities; evidently have an effect on the health of these communities (Department for Work and Pensions, 2006). The Office of National Statistics (2001) data shows that over fourteen percent of it households in Tower hamlets, with more than four dependent children, have a limiting long-term illness; in compression the national average is just above eleven percent. Also the healthy life expectancy for males in tower hamlets is around sixty two years and for females is around sixty six years old in comparison to national average of sixty nine years for males and seventy two years old for females (ONS, 2001).
Another result of that level of deprivation is that, over sixty percent of boroughs twenty four thousand children live in poverty; and over thirty percent of them live in the families whose annual budget is less than twenty thousand pounds (The London Borough of Tower Hamlets, 2010). It appears that growing up in poverty has an effect on health of these children. The inability to afford the healthy food or even enough food at all is clearly seen in all of the data, reflecting the weight of children living in Tower Hamlets. The rates of obese children in Tower Hamlets are at twenty five percent in comparison to eighteen percent of children the national average and underweight rates of over two percent of children in Tower Hamlets with national average being below one percent of children (ONS, 2001).
This is not an exhaustive list of all of the statistical evidence, which shows the correlation between the levels of work and the health in the communities of The London Borough of Tower Hamlets. But in order to understand the data provided it is important to know the psychological and sociological factors affecting these communities and the concepts behind them.
The Crow and Ritzer, (2007) described the first sociological factor, applicable to The London Borough of Tower Hamlets, as a "community cohesion", which according to them is the urbanisation tendency of migrants to congregate in ethnicity based, geographical communities; the other side of this effect is that the residents, who are not sharing the same ethnicity, tend to reallocate out of these communities. This process of introduction of the "others" or "them", in to the already settled population of "us", in itself tend to create some form of the prejudice towards "them" in the communities, which manifests later in the social discrimination of these new groups in the different environments, including the work (Crow and Ritzer, 2007; Hewstone et al, 2008).
The aforementioned Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities, which settled in Tower Hamlets, are the example of an ethnicity based community with the strong geographical attachment, often resulting in bad decision making by residents" in regards to their job options and expectations (The London Borough of Tower Hamlets, 2011). The reason for these actions, evidently none-beneficial to the local residence, lays in psychological concept of "conformity", also known as the majority influence:
"social influence resulting from exposure to the opinions of a majority, or the majority of one"s group." (Hewstone et al, 2008)
The same psychological concept of "conformity" also plays a major role in the second sociological concept, the gender:
"Gender is used to describe those characteristics of women and men, which are socially constructed, while sex refers to those which are biologically determined. People are born female or male but learn to be girls and boys who grow into women and men. This learned behaviour makes up gender identity and determines gender roles" (World Health Organization, 2002).
As a result of gender being a learned behaviour, combined with the male driven, majorities" opinion of women"s lower status; women are facing the variety of work discrimination deeply rooted in the culture (Fincham and Rhodes, 1988). Although there has been a strong feminist movement over the course of last century, the male perspective on the order of things is still remaining predominant; and it is even more evident in the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities, were up to seventy percent of the women are workless (The London Borough of Tower Hamlets, 2011).
The third complex sociological concept, which is important to this essay, is the social class. "Classis" initially appeared in the Roman Empire as a name for the bracketed tax system, consequently it has been used throughout the history, with the variation in meaning; and finally formalised by Karl Marx in to the theory of stratification of the society (Dahrendorf, 1959). Although, there is a debate amongst the sociologists, still the consensus is, that the Marx sees the development of classes and the stratification of society in the economical success and acquisition of wealth by the individual (Dahrendorf, 1959).
The reason, for this concept being important to this essay, is made clear by the Halsey, Heath and Ridge in the study done in 1980; which concluded that the social class of an individual is one of the main signs predicting individual"s chance of getting the higher education and consequently gaining access to the professional and managerial jobs (Fincham and Rhodes, 1988). Consequently, the large proportion of the boroughs population is, by definition, of the lower class and therefore unable to gain access to the majority of the professional level jobs, currently available in The London Borough of Tower Hamlets (2011).
Also, it is important to mention that work in its essence is a number of acquired complex behaviours, also known as skills, which enable the adaptation and integration of individual within environment (Fincham and Rhodes, 1988). According to behavioural studies by the Selye, that took place as early as 1936 and later were followed by the Lazarus in 1980, the individual during the acquisition and application of skills is prone to "general adaptation syndrome" what is also known as the stress (Fincham and Rhodes, 1988). Consequently, any individual approximating the job market is entering the stressful environment. The stress is the concept that is difficult to apply and research, because there are so many discrepancies in the way it is defined and applied in the medical and psychosocial studies, over the past century (Cooper, Dewe and O"Driscoll, 2001).
Finally, the combination of the underlining psychosocial concepts, with the objective data provided by The London Borough of Tower Hamlets (2011) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (2010); clearly shows that there is a connection between work and health in the local communities.
The good example, of the manifestation of this connection, would be the extreme stress that is often appearing when dealing with financial difficulties that are caused by low income work; this stress in turn can cause a great emotional distress and consequential health problems (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2010). Needs to be mentioned, that the financial difficulties are not only affecting the individual, but also, all of the dependent members of family, causing them problems related to stress and poverty (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2010).
Another batch of risks, that are resulting from the stress and poverty consist of such behaviors as smoking, substance abuse, poor nutritional intake, poor hygiene and physical inactivity; all of them tend to escalate the health problems of the communities (The London Borough of Tower Hamlets, 2011).
Additionally to that, the low social status combined with low self-esteem of large groups of the local communities, particularly their female constituency, makes them more vulnerable to possible abuse and degrades their purpose and aim in life (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2010). There is a body of evidence that shows these types of issues to go on without a resolution for an extended period of time, alternatively resulting in individuals giving up their jobs (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2010).
Result of the all of the aforementioned, is the borough"s environment in which "health, wealth and skills seem unusually resistant to improvement over time" (The London Borough of Tower Hamlets, 2011).
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