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01.12.2018 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

Human Resources for Health 1/2018

Forecasting imbalances in the global health labor market and devising policy responses

Human Resources for Health > Ausgabe 1/2018
Richard M. Scheffler, James Campbell, Giorgio Cometto, Akiko Maeda, Jenny Liu, Tim A. Bruckner, Daniel R. Arnold, Tim Evans



The High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth released its report to the United Nations Secretary-General in September 2016. It makes important recommendations that are based on estimates of over 40 million new health sector jobs by 2030 in mostly high- and middle-income countries and a needs-based shortage of 18 million, mostly in low- and middle-income countries. This paper shows how these key findings were developed, the global policy dilemmas they raise, and relevant policy solutions.


Regression analysis is used to produce estimates of health worker need, demand, and supply. Projections of health worker need, demand, and supply in 2030 are made under the assumption that historical trends continue into the future.


To deliver essential health services required for the universal health coverage target of the Sustainable Development Goal 3, there will be a need for almost 45 million health workers in 2013 which is projected to reach almost 53 million in 2030 (across 165 countries). This results in a needs-based shortage of almost 17 million in 2013. The demand-based results suggest a projected demand of 80 million health workers by 2030.


Demand-based analysis shows that high- and middle-income countries will have the economic capacity to employ tens of millions additional health workers, but they could face shortages due to supply not keeping up with demand. By contrast, low-income countries will face both low demand for and supply of health workers. This means that even if countries are able to produce additional workers to meet the need threshold, they may not be able to employ and retain these workers without considerably higher economic growth, especially in the health sector.
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