Labour force participation and the cost of lost productivity due to cancer in Australia

Nicole Bates, Emily Callander, Daniel Lindsay, Kerrianne Watt

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In Australia, 40% of people diagnosed with cancer will be of working age (25-64 years). A cancer diagnosis may lead to temporary or permanent changes in a person's labour force participation, which has an economic impact on both the individual and the economy. However, little is known about this economic impact of cancer due to lost productivity in Australia. This paper aims to determine the labour force participation characteristics of people with cancer, to estimate the indirect cost due to lost productivity, and to identify any inequality in the distribution of labour force absence in Australia. Methods: This study used national cross-sectional data from the 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The ABS weighted each component of the survey to ensure the sample represented the population distribution of Australia. The analysis was limited to people aged 25-64 years. Participants were assigned to one of three health condition groups: 'no health condition', 'cancer', and 'any other long-term health condition'. A series of logistic regression models were constructed to determine the association between health condition and labour force participation. Results: A total of 34,393 participants surveyed were aged 25-64 years, representing approximately 12,387,800 Australians. Almost half (46%) of people with cancer were not in the labour force, resulting in a reduction of $1.7 billion to the Australian gross domestic product (GDP). Amongst those in the labour force, people with no health condition were 3.00 times more likely to be employed full-time compared to people with cancer (95% CI 1.96-4.57), after adjusting for age, sex, educational attainment and rurality. Amongst those with cancer, people without a tertiary qualification were 3.73 times more likely to be out of the labour force (95% CI 1.97-7.07). Conclusions: This paper is the first in Australia to estimate the national labour force participation rates of people with cancer. People with cancer were less likely to be in the labour force, resulting in a reduction in Australia's GDP. Cancer survivors, especially those without a tertiary qualification may benefit from support to return to work after a diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number375
Number of pages7
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Costs
  • Health economics
  • Oncology
  • Productivity

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