Health for Everyone?

Social Inequalities in Health and Health Systems

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Good health is a key component of people’s well-being. It is a value in itself but – through its influence on social, education and labour market outcomes – being in good or bad health has also wider implications on people’s chances of leading a fulfilling and productive life. Yet, even in the OECD countries, health inequality persists with severe consequences on the goal of promoting inclusive growth. This report documents a comprehensive range of inequalities in health and health systems to the detriment of disadvantaged population groups in a large set of OECD and EU countries. It assesses the gaps in health outcomes and risk factors between different socio-economic groups. When it comes to health systems, the report measures inequalities in health care utilisation, unmet needs and the affordability of health care services. For each of these different domains, the report identifies groups of countries that display higher, intermediate, and low levels of inequality. The report makes a strong case for addressing health-related inequalities as a key component of a policy strategy to promote inclusive growth and reduce social inequalities. It also provides a framework for more in-depth analyses on how to address these inequalities at country level.



Promoting a better sharing of the benefits of growth and equality of opportunities are key components of a strategy to foster social cohesion and the sustainability of economic growth. Yet, in many aspects of life, inequalities between different population groups have persisted at high level or even widened further over the last decade. Across the OECD, the top 10% of income earners now take home nearly ten times more pay than the bottom 10%. Wage inequality has reached record-high levels in some OECD countries, related to the workers’ skills but also type of contract. There is also a clear geographical dimension to income inequalities and job quality. And more than in the past, inequality of opportunities feeds into inequality of outcomes and vice versa reducing social mobility from one generation to the next.


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