Cancer and Employment: Sources and Use of Data on Work Participation across Europe

by Heather Brown

On Tuesday 13th June, we hosted the 6th seminar of an ESRC funded seminar series on Cancer and Employment: Sources and Use of Data on Work Participation across Europe. We had three great speakers, Emilie Friberg from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm Sweden, Adela Popa from Sibiu University, Romania, and Georgina Smerald from Macmillan Cancer Support.

Emilie shared her experience in cohort analyses, database management, use of register data, and (cancer-) epidemiology. She gave an interesting overview of the administrative datasets available in Sweden and how they could be linked with survey data.  Emilie described the process for linking data which is comparatively easy in Sweden compared to here in the UK!

Adela discussed a qualitative project evaluating international employers’ experience of what they consider good practice regarding employees with cancer and the additional resources they may need in order to follow this good practice. She discussed how awareness of EU law regarding the rights of workers with cancer was not universally known across countries. This was especially the case in Eastern European countries such as Romania. Due to the wider reach of this research she highlighted that the employers chosen in her study had a positive bias towards accommodating workers with cancer.

Our final speaker was Georgina who outlined the annual survey conducted by Macmillan on cancer and work.  The survey is effectively a market research survey where they use a Kantar panel.  There are hopes that they can develop a longitudinal panel in the future.  Georgina asked the audience for variables that they would like to be included and a lively discussion ensued; desired variables emerged such as occupation, job tenure and age.

The afternoon session focused on group discussions. We discussed some of the challenges and opportunities of cross-country analysis, particularly what we would include if we were to design a survey of cancer and work.  Some points that emerged from the group discussion were the need to focus on clearly defined and transferable outcome variables for cross-country research and the importance of starting with very small questions since even those will have many caveats.  In terms of datasets we came to the conclusion that it needs to be easier to get linked survey and administrative datasets in the UK. We have great survey datasets asking in-depth information on socioeconomic and demographic factors and brilliant cancer registers but it is not easy to link the two which is a real disadvantage to research.

Overall the seminar was a resounding success; I learned a lot and met some really interesting people