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Health Workforce Policies in OECD Countries

Right Jobs, Right Skills, Right Places

image of Health Workforce Policies in OECD Countries

Health workers are the cornerstone of health systems, playing a central role in providing health services to the population and improving health outcomes. The demand and supply of health workers have increased over time in all OECD countries, with jobs in the health and social sector accounting for more than 10% of total employment now in several OECD countries. This publication reviews key trends and policy priorities on health workforce across OECD countries, with a particular focus on doctors and nurses given the preeminent role that they have traditionally played in health service delivery.

 

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Skills use and skills mismatch in the health sector: What do we know and what can be done?

Health professionals need a wide range of complex skills to perform their work efficiently. However, as in other sectors of the economy, there is not always a perfect match between the skills that health professionals have and the skills required in their jobs. Such skills mismatch raises concerns of a possible waste in human capital (when people are over-skilled for the work they do) or the quality and safety of health services (when they are lacking certain skills). This chapter introduces the concept of skills mismatch among health professionals, proposing a broad framework to analyse both the possibilities of over-skilling and under-skilling. It presents some evidence on the extent of skills mismatch in the health sector by using information reported by doctors and nurses in the 2011-12 OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) and the 2010 European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS). The results from these two surveys indicate that there tends to be a greater level of skills mismatch among doctors and nurses than among other workers in technical or professional occupations. This chapter then goes on to review some policy levers that might be used to address issues of skills mismatch in the health sector, including policies to expand the scope of practice of certain providers to reduce any over-skilling, and policies related to continuous professional development to ensure that the skills of health care providers remain up-to-date and “fit to practice”.

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