Health workforce: A global supply chain approach (ESS Working Paper No. 55)

Organization(s): ILO
Author: Xenia Scheil-Adlung
Year: 2016
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Moving towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires a sufficient number of workers producing and delivering health care such as doctors and nurses but also workers in other occupations, e.g. those concerned with administration or maintaining health facilities. However, currently there is a significant workforce shortage which is expected to increase given the demographic ageing of the population. As a result, in most countries large numbers of unpaid “care workers”, often women, are indispensable to fill in for the shortages, and provide care, for example to older family members.

Filling the workforce gaps provides the opportunity to achieve better health outcomes and generate millions of jobs. The jobs required for activities within and across countries to produce goods and services needed are part of the national health economies and global health protection supply chains.

Investing in related employment will create significant multiplier employment effects for skilled and unskilled workers within and beyond the health sector and contribute to inclusive and sustainable economic growth. However, for the time being, these important economic impacts of investing in health
protection are largely ignored and returns of investments in UHC in terms of employment have not been sufficiently assessed. Against this background, this paper provides for the first time global estimates on the total employment potential of workers in health and non-health occupations employed in the health economies of 185 countries.

Creating the needed jobs and combining them with decent salaries, social protection and rights at work, will generate important returns of investments specifically in countries with large health coverage deficits and informal labour markets. Further, huge gains of investments can be expected from revealing the economic potential of female workers which withdrew from the labour market to provide care to family members in the absence of skilled health workers. Thus, investments in health protection can be considered as a sustainable domestic source of employment that creates inclusive economic growth.

This paper expands on ILO’s work for the United Nations High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth announced by the UN Secretary General in March 2016, co-chaired by the President of France and the President of South Africa and vice-chaired by the Director General of the WHO and ILO as well as the Secretary General of the OECD.

Related Principles

Universality of Protection

States parties to major human rights instruments related to economic, social and cultural rights such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) have an immediate minimum core obligation to ensure the satisfaction of, at the very least, minimum essential levels of all economic, social and cultural rights such as the right […]

Social Protection and Human Rights