Under pressure, out of control, or home alone? Reviewing research and policy debates on the occupational health and safety effects of outsourcing and home-based work
Quinlan, M and Bohle, P, Under pressure, out of control, or home alone? Reviewing research and policy debates on the occupational health and safety effects of outsourcing and home-based work, International Journal of Health Services, 38, (3) pp. 489-523. ISSN 0020-7314 (2008) [Refereed Article]
The practice of outsourcing or subcontracting of work has grown rapidly in most countries over the past two decades. Outsourcing, de-institutionalization, and a range of other practices have also resulted in a growth of home-based work. Home-based workers, even when not part of a subcontracting process, operate in an isolated situation remote from their employer and other workers. Do such work arrangements expose workers to greater risk of injury, illness, or assault? The authors reviewed international studies of the occupational health and safety (OHS) effects of subcontracting and home-based work undertaken over the past 20 years. Of the 25 studies analyzed, 92 percent found poorer OHS outcomes. The studies were examined for clues about the reasons for these negative outcomes. The authors also identified similarities and differences between subcontracting and home-based work. Despite the evidence of poor OHS outcomes, research into outsourcing has stalled in recent years. With notable exceptions, governments have taken little account of findings on these work arrangements in their laws and policies, in part because neoliberal ideas dominate national and global policy agendas. The authors examine policy challenges and regulatory responses and make suggestions for future research and policy interventions.