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High Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth

ILO calls for increase in global health sector workforce

At the first meeting in Lyon, France, of a new UN multilateral commission, the ILO has highlighted a major increase in the health sector workforce as essential if the 2030 Agenda goals on health are to be realized.

Press release | 23 March 2016
GENEVA (ILO News) – International Labour Organization Deputy Director-General Gilbert Houngbo, on behalf of co-vice chair of the commission and Director-General of the ILO Guy Ryder, has emphasised that realizing the goal of ensuring healthy lives for all by 2030 will require a major increase in the global health sector workforce especially in low and lower middle income countries.

Speaking at the inaugural meeting of the newly-created UN High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth in Lyon (France), Houngbo warned: “The need for health professionals in low and middle income countries is far outstripping the numbers of medically trained workers entering the profession; by 2030 the gap could be 18 million.”

Recent pandemic response measures have exemplified the pressing need to address critical labour force gaps in the health sector."

Gilbert Houngbo, ILO Deputy Director-General
Houngbo added that health workforce shortages could easily double when also considering the number of jobs that are needed to provide essential support to the health sector.

“Recent pandemic response measures have exemplified the pressing need to address critical labour force gaps in the health sector,” he insisted.

The ILO also pointed out that the international migration of health workers was increasingly becoming what Mr Houngbo called “a mechanism for brain drain” from developing countries which already lack skilled workers.

“Our challenge is to help countries develop policies that enable at least part of that huge number of job seekers to find decent and productive employment in improving health care,” he said.

Stressing that two thirds of workers employed in the sector are women, Houngbo also insisted on the importance of respecting health workers’ rights such as gender equality, freedom of association and social dialogue to establish resilient health sectors capable of retaining committed and well-trained staff.

The new Commission appointed by the UN Secretary-General is co-chaired by François Hollande, President of France, and Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa with the heads of ILO, WHO and OECD acting as co-vice chairs.

It is expected to deliver recommendations to the UN Secretary-General in September 2016.