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Health Workforce Policies in OECD Countries

Right Jobs, Right Skills, Right Places

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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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Trends in health labour markets and policy priorities to address workforce issues

Prior to the economic crisis, there were widespread concerns in most OECD countries about a looming crisis in the health workforce. Growing shortages of health workers were expected to result from the retirement of the “baby-boom” generation of doctors and nurses and from steady increases in the demand for their services from an ageing population. However, these concerns have since lessened considerably in many OECD countries as countries have adapted their education and training policies leading to a growing supply of new doctors and nurses, and retention rates have also increased. This chapter describes recent trends in health labour markets in OECD countries before, during and following the economic crisis in terms of employment levels and remuneration rates, and considers key policy priorities of OECD countries in health workforce development and management. It finds that the employment of doctors and nurses has continued to increase both in absolute number and on a per capita basis, although the demand in some countries did not grow as quickly as expected following reductions in health spending after the crisis. The main health workforce priorities in many OECD countries have evolved from general concerns about widespread shortages to more specific issues regarding the mix and geographic distribution of certain categories of workers.

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