California institutions partner to study gig workers' health

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The California Labor Laboratory has opened to study the health of California's workforce and advance worker well-being with a focus on gig workers, about whom little is known. 

The initiative is a new creation formed out of UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley and the California Department of Public Health and is funded in part by National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. The lab will start by conducting a longitudinal study of 5,000 working-aged Californians, running an educational program about lung disease prevention for industry workers and conducting a review of intersectional inequities in the service sector. 

The lab will also develop interventions like protections, empowerment and tools for employers to help tangibly improve working conditions. This is in addition to the health research the lab will conduct. 

California's gig workforce makes up around 40 percent of the total economy, according to some estimates. The population is often not afforded structural protections that traditional workers are, like health insurance, job security or retirement benefits. The California Labor Lab wishes to shine a light on the population and help develop policy to protect them. 

"The California Labor Lab is focused on understanding the implications for the health and welfare of workers even when workers are not afforded systematic protections that have come from traditional employment," said Ed Yelin, PhD, the new director of the Lab. 

"Healthy workplaces benefit employers and employees alike — by increasing productivity and supporting well-being," said Cristina Banks, PhD, who will assume the position of associate director of outreach for the lab. "The way we do business, the way we hire people, the way we treat people, our economic model of getting the most out of an individual per unit of time, is a well-worn path I'd like to erase."

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