An estimated 50 million decent jobs are missing to address essential global health requirements, while much of the care in the health economy is done by 57 million unpaid family workers, says new ILO study.

The study Health workforce: A global supply chain  approach provides new data on the employment effects of health economies in 185 countries. It takes an unprecedented approach by including all workers in the wider economy contributing to the delivery of health care and services within and across countries in global health supply chains. 

The data provide evidence that a large invisible workforce of globally 57 million unpaid workers fills in for the huge shortages of skilled health workers. Most of them are women who gave up employment to provide care, for example to older family members. 

According to the study, globally some 234 million workers are working towards the achievement of health targets such as universal health coverage (UHC). This number includes 27 million doctors and nurses and other workers in health occupations employed in the public and private sector. However, the large majority of the workforce – 106 million workers representing 70 per cent of the health economy workforce – have jobs in non-health occupations. The latter include the 57 million unpaid family workers already mentioned, and another 45.5 million often low paid workers in jobs lacking decent working conditions, mainly in the areas of maintenance, cleaning, administrative support and informal care.