The future of work

Economic globalization, the digitalization of production processes, and the fragmentation of global supply chains, as noted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) 1, are profoundly transforming the organization and regulation of employment, labor relations, and social benefit systems in all countries and companies worldwide. To this, we must add the social and demographic changes that are also taking place, such as the aging of the population, the increasingly intense migratory movements, and the already visible effects of climate change. Profound changes are also taking place in the complex relationship between work and health.

Decent and safe work, as defined by ILO 2, is the main source of income and social protection for people. In parallel, the health and well-being of workers is a prerequisite for the work carried out to be productive. However, work must also be considered as a source of health risks, either in the form of injury and/or illness, which can cause temporary or permanent disabilities and, in the worst-case, premature deaths.

Currently, the burden of illness in relation to work is defined by the increase in chronic diseases, which increase the incidence and duration of episodes of permanent disability, and not so much due to injuries in occupational accidents 3.

Epidemiological surveillance of the health of working people

In this context, it is more necessary than ever to have information systems that facilitate surveillance and monitoring trends in the effects of work on health, that is, information systems that are capable of anticipating possible changes and, therefore, suggest the necessary adaptations. It is especially interesting to know the impact that changes in economic cycles and labor market regulation are having on the health of working people, as well as assessing the extent to which social benefits influence their impact.

The platform presented allows us to continuously monitor the annual evolution of the incidence rate of permanent disability and premature mortality in a sample of Spanish Social Security affiliates according to sex, occupation, and economic activity.

Data and information

The data collected regularly through Social Security, to which some data from the Tax Agency and the Municipal Register are added, are the basis of the Continuous Working Life Sample (CWLS), which, since 2004, is annually provided by the General Directorate of Social Security Management 4.

The CWLS, which includes anonymized individual data, is an annual random representative sample of 4% of the individuals affiliated (contributors and beneficiaries) with the Spanish Social Security system starting in 2004. For each person, data on their relationship with the Social Security system in that year are included, as well as historical data, insofar as they are kept in computerized records until 1981. The total number of affiliates included in the CWLS, both contributors and beneficiaries, was of 1,098,165 people in 2004 5.

However, and following the indications of those responsible for the MCVL, it is considered that it would be from 2006 when the data collected for the CWLS is more reliable, so the decision was made to start the cohort in 2006.

Due to the characteristics of the CWLS and the conditions necessary to be part of the sample, the people who have been part of it since 2006 are logically decreasing, either by leaving the job market permanently or dying, and being replaced by other Participants in subsequent years as indicated in Figure 1. However, people who are or have been part of the CWLS remain in it for an average of approximately 9.7 years.

Figure 1. Total people each year, identifying those who have remained in the cohort since 2006 (stable population) and the new people who have entered the CWLS each year.

Based on these annual data of each affiliate, linked by a unique natural person identification number (IPF) from their first contact with the Social Security system, the Spanish WORKing life Social Security (WORKss) cohort was built (Figure 2). This longitudinal cohort is created by linking the annual waves of the CWLS and contains only data of affiliates who have a registered employment history 6.


Figure 2. Scheme of the conversion of the Continuous Working Life Sample in the WORKss Cohort (Spanish WORKing life Social Security) from 2004 until the last available year (in this case 2015), being able to track reliable information until 1981.


Thus, individual A entered the cohort in 2004, and since the same selection algorithm is used yearly, has been followed until 2015 with information on the person’s career since 1981. Individual B was also included in the cohort in 2004, having data since 1981, and until his/her death in 2010. Individual C has retrospective data on his/her working life after 1981 and until his/her exit from the labour market and his subsequent loss of the administrative relationship in 2009. It is noteworthy that, in this case, individual C could have been affiliated again, but without being part of the cohort. Individual D entered the cohort in 2005, remaining since then and having information about their previous relationship with the Social Security system. On the other hand, individual E, who entered the cohort in 2004, went from being a taxpayer affiliate to a beneficiary affiliate in 2009 after being in a situation of permanent disability. The case of individual F is that of a person who started his/her employment relationship since 2005 when he became part of the cohort. Finally, individual G follows the same pattern as individual A, with the difference that, after retiring in 2010, he/she goes from being a contributor to a beneficiary affiliate, in this case, receiving a retirement pension.