World Health Day 2020

Improving nurses’ and midwives’ working conditions: An investment in resilience for all

The rapid expansion of COVID-19 emphasizes the urgent need for a strong health workforce as integral part of every resilient health system.

Noticia | 6 de abril de 2020
© Photo by Artur Tumasjan on Unsplash
GENEVA (ILO News) – The rapid expansion of COVID-19 emphasizes the urgent need for a strong health workforce as integral part of every resilient health system. Respect for labour rights is indispensable to giving these frontline workers the protection they need to wage the long battle ahead to save lives.

In order to set decent standards of work, boost the professional and political profile of nursing personnel, and provide incentives for staff retention, it is critical to provide them with good working conditions and social protection coverage, in all countries. Nursing and midwifery personnel constitute the largest occupational group in the health sector, accounting for nearly half of the global health workforce,1 and are predominantly women (up to 90 per cent). Hence, investing in decent working conditions in line with the ILO Nursing Personnel Convention, 1977 (No. 149) and its Recommendation (No. 157) is urgent and requires adopting a gender lens.

Nurses and midwives play a central role in enabling societies to achieve universal health coverage (UHC). Hiring, training and retaining them is a key building block to availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of care in line with ILO Social Protection Floors Recommendation No. 202, 2012.

For every person’s right to health and social security to become a reality, supporting better working conditions for nurses and midwives is a necessity. Guaranteeing universal access to affordable health care is critical to save lives as well as to avoid impoverishment. Social health protection principles provide a rights-based approach to UHC and guide the design of robust and adequately resourced systems.

To address underlying reasons for health workforce shortages in a coherent way, the ILO joined forces with WHO and OECD in the joint Working for Health Programme to support national strategies for scaling up investments in their health workforces, based on improved health labour market data, multi-stakeholder involvement, and social dialogue.