Labour is of utmost importance for human wellbeing. Yet a comprehensive framework that can reflect the empirical diversity of labour activities along with each activities’ manifold effects on human wellbeing is still lacking. An additional challenge for any such framework is to adequately handle fundamental moral ambiguities, which are inherent to many forms of work. This paper argues that a conceptualisation of labour within the capability approach can meet these requirements. Specifically, I argue that labour can be conceived as a characteristic-providing activity, where obtained characteristics are then transformed into functioning achievements, while accounting for both individual and societal heterogeneity. Additionally, paying adequate attention to unfreedoms experienced by agents turns out to be vital for a comprehensive account. Finally, the paper discusses policy handles, offers suggestions for particular applications, and identifies several other benefits for labour economics.
Citation: Suppa, N. (2019). ‘Work and wellbeing: A conceptual proposal.’ OPHI Working Paper 131, University of Oxford.