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Health and Employment: Convention Theory’s Perspective on Work Incapacity

Eva Nadai & Anna Gonon (2022)

In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first

Abstract. Health is an important research field for the Economics and Sociology of Conventions (EC/SC), but the implications of health in the domain of work and employment are notably absent in the debate. Yet, health in terms of a well-functioning body and mind is a crucial precondition for employment. In the workplace, health is inextricably tied to work capacity: What matters is the degree to which health enables or hampers a person to meet given productivity standards. Work incapacity due to health impairments therefore raises deeply normative questions not only for the economy but also for the welfare state. To what extent is incapacity to be tolerated in the productivity-driven world of work, and what is the just and adequate support for people with disabilities who cannot make a living through gainful work? Convention theory offers a number of useful theoretical concepts to analyze these questions, which organize the presentation of EC/SC research on health and employment in this chapter. Handling work incapacity depends on classification: What counts as standard work capacity, or, conversely, as incapacity which legitimizes special treatment? Managing health troubles triggers disputes and requires justifications in the economy and in the welfare system. The (non-)employment of people with health impairments depends on the valorization of labor, which in turn relates to a plurality of quality conventions and respective tests. Finally, dealing with work incapacity is structured by investments in forms that allow classification, valorization, and the coordination of labor market inclusion and support.

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