Health Care Services

  1. Tale of a Journey: Migrant Health Workers’ Voice through images

Providing social health protection and equal access to quality health care has significant positive effects on individual and public health, economic growth and development. The health sector is also a major employment sector, with important potential in job creation. Global shortages and the unequal distribution of qualified health personnel are major constraints in providing universal access to health care, however.

Decent work for health workers is essential to provide quality health care. Health services are unique and complex work environments with inherent opportunities and challenges. Widespread reforms of health systems are continuously changing the employment environment for health care workers.

The international migration of health care professionals has increased in intensity over the last decade as the impact of demographic change in many high income countries led to an increase in demand for health care services, while at the same time reducing the supply of labour. As awareness of the potential negative impact of migration for origin countries (e.g. brain drain), but also destination countries (e.g. issues around integration, discrimination, issues around the recognition of training and experience acquired in other countries etc.) has grown, there have been efforts to formulate policies to address such impact.

This includes guidelines and codes or practice on ethical recruitment and fair migration policies ensuring mutual benefits of migration and protection of migrant health workers. Migration can take various forms, such as permanent or temporary and repeat (circular migration). Fair migration policies aim to strengthen benefits for all: destination countries can benefit from the opportunity to fill labour and skills gaps, migrant workers from increased skills, experience and professional development and source countries from knowledge transfer and income through remittances. Migration policies can be formalized through bilateral agreements. Upon return to their countries of origin health workers require support to ease their reintegration.

Many migrant health workers continue to be exposed to the risk of being lured into exploitative employment by unscrupulous brokers, agencies and employers. However a segment of the recruitment industry has been active in promoting fair and ethical recruitment standards and good practices are emerging.

The ILO supports improvement of working conditions and labour relations in the health sector through sectoral labour standards and social dialogue, and collaborates with the World Health Organization (WHO) to promote supportive, enabling and healthy work environments for the health workforce.