Cancer wipes $1.7bn off Aust GDP

Saturday, 07 April, 2018

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It is understood that experiencing cancer is tough for any patient, as well as their family and friends. But it seems that cancer is also not great for the Australian economy.

A study by researchers at James Cook University has found that in 2015, an estimated 50,100 Australian adults of working age (25–64 years) with cancer were not in the labour force, reducing Australia’s GDP by approximately $1.7 billion.

The study estimated the national labour force participation rates of people with cancer. Leveraging national cross-sectional data from the 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, researchers found that almost half of people (46%) with cancer in Australia were not in the labour force, impacting productivity and, hence, GDP. 

Previous studies have shown that many cancer survivors return to work after treatment, from 40% at six months to 89% at 24 months following a cancer diagnosis. “For some survivors, returning to work after a cancer diagnosis is an important milestone, both financially and emotionally,” said the authors.

However, amongst people with cancer, those without a tertiary qualification had nearly four times the odds of being out of the labour force. “Other factors which may affect returning to work include jobs that require manual labour and those with less flexible working arrangements. The type of cancer and treatment factors may also negatively impact returning to work,” the authors said.

Cancer survivors, particularly those without higher education, may benefit from additional support by the government, employers and medical professionals to assist them should they choose to return to work. 

The study has been published by BMC Public Health.

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