Health services sector

Health services are one of the fundamental sectors of society and the economy. The ILO endorses the fundamental principles of the human right to health and social security. Decent working conditions for health workers are essential to provide health services and to ensure that all members of society have access to social health protection. The lack of capacity to provide health services has significant effects on individual and public health, poverty, income generation, labour market productivity, economic growth and development. While the burden of disease and the demand for health services varies in each community, the affordability of health care challenges most countries. Therefore, many governments have considered or implemented wide-spread reforms of their health care systems, reshaping the employment environment for health care workers.

In addition to promoting social health protection for all workers, the ILO supports better working conditions for health workers through sectoral labour standards and social dialogue. The shortage of trained health workers coincides with longer life expectancies, increasing use of specialized medical technology and the rise of new and drug resistant diseases. Meanwhile, hospitals and other health facilities are rarely considered as workplaces. As the demand for health services grows and the shortage of qualified health personnel becomes more severe, working conditions deteriorate and the quality of health care may be jeopardised. The critical shortage of workers in the poorest countries is further exacerbated by wealthier countries offering better working conditions to migrant health workers. ILO collaborates with WHO to address these challenges by recognizing health facilities as unique work environments and encouraging improvements of working conditions so that health workers are encouraged and supported to provide high quality care in their own communities


  1. Feature

    Labour Migration - In their own voices

    An ILO-produced film documents the opportunities and obstacles on the path taken by migrant health-care workers from the Philippines. The film “Tale of a Journey: Migrant Health Workers’ Voice through images” was made by the ILO’s Decent Work across Borders (DWAB) project, funded by the European Union, and produced in partnership with the Asia Pacific Film Institute.

  2. HealthWISE - Work Improvement in Health Services

  1. Press release

    ILO and WHO team up to improve working conditions in the health sector

  2. New Publication

    The organization of working time and its effects in the health services sector: A comparative analysis of Brazil, South Africa and the Republic of Korea

  3. Joint WHO/ILO briefing note for workers and employers

    Ebola Virus Disease: Occupational safety and health

  4. ILO Blog

    Ebola outbreak: how we’re keeping workers safe

  5. Social Protection

    No health workers, no health protection