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Labor Productivity, Human Health, and Climate Change



  May 02, 2024

Labor Productivity, Human Health, and Climate Change



1. What does the ILO report say about labor and climate change?

The International Labour Organization (ILO) highlights the urgent need to climate-proof labor conditions, citing that over a third of the global population is exposed to excessive heat annually, which contributes to almost 23 million work-related injuries. The report underscores the necessity of addressing these changing work environments as the planet warms.

2. What are the key impacts of climate change on workplaces according to the ILO?

The ILO identifies six primary climate impacts affecting workers: excessive heat, solar ultraviolet radiation, extreme weather events, workplace air pollution, vector-borne diseases, and exposure to agrochemicals. Each of these factors can lead to significant health issues such as heat stress, stroke, and exhaustion, thereby affecting overall worker productivity and health.

3. Which sectors are most affected by climate change?

The agriculture sector is particularly susceptible to heat, especially in developing countries where informal farm laborers work with little to no weather protection. This vulnerability is followed by the MSME sector and the construction industry, which also face significant risks from air pollution and the urban heat island effect, impacting worker health and productivity.

4. How does climate change affect workers in India?

About 80% of India’s workforce is susceptible to heat-related hazards, affecting sectors like agriculture, construction, and MSMEs. These hazards not only threaten health but also significantly reduce labor productivity due to increased incidences of illness and the inability to work under extreme heat conditions.

5. What does Indian law say about workplace safety in the context of climate change?

Over 13 central laws in India, including the Factories Act, 1948, and the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020, regulate working conditions. These laws aim to provide safety standards but often fall short in enforcement, particularly in the context of updated needs due to climate change.

6. How do current laws address heat hazards?

Laws like the Factories Act define “ventilation and temperature” standards but are outdated, often not incorporating modern methods like air conditioning, which has become essential for thermal comfort in the workplace.

7. What updates are needed for Indian labor laws considering climate change?

Indian labor laws require updates to include modern thermal comfort technologies and consider the specific needs of different industries based on the latest production processes. For example, adapting standards for heat exposure based on the intensity of physical labor and incorporating technological advancements for better climate control in workplaces are critical needs.

8. What are the broader implications of occupational health hazards like silicosis?

Expanding industries such as mining and construction increase risks like silicosis, an incurable pulmonary disease. This not only affects the health of workers but also diminishes their working capacity, leading to a decrease in overall productivity and an increase in healthcare costs.


These FAQs help understand the direct links between labor productivity, worker health, and climate change, emphasizing the need for urgent legislative and protective measures to safeguard workers in a rapidly changing climate.


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