Undervalued essential work and lacking health literacy as determinants of COVID-19 infection risks: a qualitative interview study among foreign-born workers in Sweden.

Söderberg M, Magnusson M, Swaid J, Jakobsson K, Rosengren A

BMJ Open 13 (12) e069838 [2023-12-12; online 2023-12-12]

To investigate work and living conditions as determinants of COVID-19 infection risks in foreign-born workers in non-healthcare occupations. Data were collected according to a qualitative design, using semistructured interviews. Verbatim transcripts of these interviews were analysed according to systematic text condensation. We recruited foreign-born workers (n=15) and union representatives (n=6) among taxi drivers, bus and tram drivers, pizza bakers, cleaners and property caretakers, all indicated as risk occupations during COVID-19 in Sweden. Four overarching themes were found: 'virus exposure at work', 'aspects of low status and undervalued work', 'lack of access to information' and 'foreign-born persons' position'. Virus exposure was frequent due to many social interactions over a workday, out of which several were physically close, sometimes to the point of touching. The respondents fulfilled important societal functions, but their work was undervalued due to low job status, and they had little influence on improving safety at work. Lack of health literacy limited foreign-born workers to access information about COVID-19 infection risks and protection, since most information from health organisations and employers was only available in Swedish and not adapted to their living conditions or disseminated through unknown channels. Instead, many turned to personal contacts or social media, through which a lot of misinformation was spread. Foreign-born persons were also subjected to exploitation since a Swedish residency permit could depend on maintaining employment, making it almost impossible to make demands for improved safety at work. Structural factors and a lack of adapted information manifested themselves as fewer possibilities for protection against COVID-19. In a globalised world, new widespread diseases are likely to occur, and more knowledge is needed to protect all workers equally. Our results are transferable to similar contexts and bring forth aspects that can be tried in quantitative studies or public health interventions.Cite Now.

Category: Social Science & Humanities

Funder: Forte

Funder: VR

Type: Journal article

PubMed 38086584

DOI 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-069838

Crossref 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-069838

pmc: PMC10729212
pii: bmjopen-2022-069838

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