To support Member States and stakeholders to implement the recommendations of the High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic
An intersectoral, strategic, multistakeholder programme leveraging the convening power and mandates of the UN and the OECD to expand and transform the health and social workforce
Working for Health
Working for Health is a joint programme of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) and the World Health Organization (WHO). It is a strategic, intersectoral, multi-stakeholder programme that leverages the convening power and mandates of the United Nations and the OECD, its rights-based approaches and standards, and the expertise, resources and support from its diverse constituents and partners to expand and transform the health and social workforce. We work hand in hand with governments, the private sector, civil society, academia, education and training providers, employers, professional associations, regulators, and trade unions.
The Working for Health mission was set by the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth as:
- To stimulate and guide the creation of at least 40 million new jobs in the health and social sectors, and
- To avert the projected shortfall of 18 million health workers, primarily in low- and lower-middle income countries, by 2030.
In a nutshell
The expansion and transformation of the global health and social workforce
The International Labour Organization (ILO), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the World Health Organization (WHO)
Good health and well-being (SDG3); quality education (SDG4); gender equality (SDG5); decent work and economic growth (SDG8)
Five Year Action Plan
Plan To support Member States and stakeholders to implement the recommendations of the High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic
Recommendations and immediate actions
5 immediate actions
Encourage commitments, foster intersectoral engagement, develop an implementation plan
Galvanize accountability, commitment and advocacy
Advance health labour market data, analysis and tracking in all countries
Accelerate investment in transformative education, skills and job creation
Establish an international platform on health worker mobility
Why Working for Health was set up
In 2016, the then UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, set up an intersectoral High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth (‘the Commission’), drawing Commissioners from the education, finance, health and labour sectors. Their task: identify strategies to avert a projected shortfall of 18 million health workers by 2030 – primarily in low- and middle-income countries – and guide action on the unprecedented global demand for health and social sector jobs in wealthier economies.
The Commission found evidence that investing in the health workforce is a driver of inclusive economic growth, dispelling perceptions of health as a consumptive cost. Moreover, the Commission found that investing in the health workforce is a powerful means of making gains across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDGs 3 (good health and well-being), 4 (quality education), 5 (gender equality) and 8 (decent work and economic growth).
In their report, Working for Health and Growth, the Commission made ten recommendations with five immediate actions to expand and transform the health workforce.
Progress to date
Rapid progress has been made since UNGA adopted the Commission’s recommendations and immediate actions. In May 2017, the World Health Assembly adopted a joint ILO, OECD and WHO five-year action plan, ‘Working for Health’.
High-Level Commission On Health Employment And Economic Growth
Commission launches its report with ten recommendations and five immediate actions
Adoption Of The Commission’s Recommendations In High-Level Fora
ILO tripartite meeting on improving employment and working conditions in health services
OECD Health Committee
United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development
ILO Governing Body
How we work
The Five-Year Action Plan
A Five-Year Action Plan on Health Employment and Inclusive Economic Growth was unanimously adopted by the Seventieth World Health Assembly on 25 May 2017. It maps the specific actions the Working for Health programme will take over the next five years.
The action plan aims to support and facilitate country-driven implementation, delivering results in the following five workstreams:
- Galvanizing advocacy, social dialogue and policy dialogue
- Strengthening data, evidence and accountability
- Accelerating education, skills and jobs
- Catalyzing sustainable financing and investments
- Maximizing mutual benefits from International labour mobility
Catalyse the expansion and transformation of the health and social workforce in all countries.
This involves providing technical assistance to all stakeholders to develop social dialogue and evidence-based national strategies, improve accountability and achieve efficiencies in existing and future investments.
Develop global public goods
These include an interagency data exchange, an international platform on health worker mobility, guidance, tools, evidence, and other resources needed to support scaling up of investments in transformative education, skills and job creation.
Provide targeted technical assistance in priority and pathfinder countries.
Priority countries are countries that have made least progress toward achieving universal health coverage, have the greatest disease burdens and are most at risk from emerging and re-emerging epidemics.
Pathfinder countries are countries that have demonstrated high level commitment to bold action and investments in the health workforce. Pathfinder countries that have already requested support to transform and expand their health workforce include: Member States of the West African Economic and Monetary Union: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo; Member States of the Southern African Development Community: Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe; and Iraq, The Philippines and Tunisia.
Frequently Asked Questions
Demographic change indicates there will be a need for 40 million new health and social sector jobs globally in the next decade. At the same time there is a projected shortfall of 18 million health workers in mostly low and middle income countries. Inaction and chronic underinvestment in the workforce have compromised health and led to new global health security risks. The change needed must happen at country level and Working for Health will work, together with other agencies and across government sectors, to make this happen.
Investing in the health workforce is an investment in growing the economy, therefore all countries and all sectors will benefit from expansion and transformation of the health workforce. The health and social sectors provide opportunities for young men and women to obtain decent work, thus expanding and transforming the health workforce offers more and better opportunities for young people and solutions to the growing youth unemployment problem many countries face. As seventy percent of workers in the health and social sectors are women, guiding the creation of decent work in this sector should contribute to gender equality.
Working for Health has established a multi-partner trust fund, in order to make resources available at the country level for action and implementation.
Working for Health will bolster health security through investments in transformative education, skills and job creation, all of which are essential to tackle existing health emergencies and future health threats. Prevention, detection and response to emerging health threats cannot be done without well-resourced, well-trained and supported health workers at all levels, especially the community. Community outreach and surveillance is vital for preparedness.
An expanded, trained and supported health workforce is critical to achieving the health SDG3 targets- almost fifty percent of resources needed to achieve SDG3 involve workforce education and employment and training requirements. Working for Health will increase numbers and education and training catalyse investments and action needed to make the health workforce fit for purpose. Other SDGs-education (SDG4), gender equality (SDG5), decent work and economic growth (SDG8) will also be advanced.
Working for Health will work in 20 countries identified as least likely to attain universal health coverage and with ‘pathfinder countries’ –those with strong commitment to make innovative change. To date, over 26 member states have made requests for support.