Preventing occupational disease and injury, second edition. Levy BS, Wagner GR, Rest KM, Weeks JL, eds. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association, 2005 Jan; :545-553
Over the last half of the 20th century the size of the working population in the United States doubled, increasing by 79 million workers between 1950 and 2000. The composition of this new workforce reflects the changing social, political, and demographic characteristics of the United States. Many more women and immigrant workers have entered the workforce, changes in laws and technology have increased job opportunities for disabled workers, and the aging of the baby boom generation has increased the median age of the workforce. At the same time, the economy of the United States has been transformed, as traditional permanent, full-time, often unionized manufacturing jobs have moved to Latin America and Asia and new nonunion, temporary and contract, and service-sector jobs have taken their place. Although there have been many significant advances in civil rights, the African American population is still disproportionately employed in high-hazard jobs, while racism and other forms of discrimination, both in the community and the workplace, contribute to additional health risks. Innovative programs in the workplace and society have not kept pace with the demands of this changing workforce, leaving many workers increasingly vulnerable to the various forms of occupational injury, illness, and work stress described in this book. For example, working parents have few low-cost, high-quality options for child care; training and education programs are not prepared to serve the linguistic and cultural needs of the new immigrant workforce; few new programs exist to help those in temporary jobs find stable and safe employment; and almost half of all low-wage, full-time workers lack health care coverage. Although a variety of workers are affected by these social and economic trends, this chapter will highlight the particular issues facing some of the most important sectors. The statistics presented here are primarily generated by either the Census Bureau or the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and can be found at the Internet sites listed under Further Reading.