High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth: closing remarks


Closing remarks by Angel Gurría

Secretary-General, OECD 

23 March 2016

Lyon, France

(As prepared for delivery)



President Hollande, President Zuma, distinguished colleagues:


Thank you for today’s inspiring and productive conversation. Many important points have been raised that will be very helpful in guiding the future work of the Commission. Three key messages have emerged: 

  • First, we need to invest in health workers – the cornerstone of health systems – both to improve people’s health and to promote inclusive growth.
  • Second, we need to marshal a 21st century health workforce that leverages new technologies and working practices to improve health service delivery. 
  • Third, we need effective international collaboration to address future health workforce needs.


Let me focus on the second and third messages. Margaret Chan has rightly stressed the importance of placing health and the health workforce at the core of our inclusive growth agenda. Demographic trends, globalisation and innovation are changing the world of work and the health needs of the population. We cannot rely on antiquated health workforce models to cater for our current and future health needs.


Ensuring that countries have the right number of healthcare workers is an important component of this equation. It is important that the Commission`s efforts focus on ensuring an adequate number of both medical and ancillary jobs to strengthen national health sectors and achieve Universal Health Coverage. In many countries, there is also an urgent need to strengthen the primary health care workforce.


But achieving a better match and more efficient use of skills – and ensuring they are accessible to all – is becoming increasingly important in the health sector.


We must also not lose sight of the economic benefits of investments in health workers through education, skills training and skills upgrading.


Responding to technology


Health workers need skills to adapt to the increasing digitalisation of health care, treatments and medical procedures. Using technology more effectively will help address the needs of populations in underserved areas.


The functions and the responsibilities of healthcare workers will also need to change. High‑end, high-skilled health workers who are able to manage sophisticated technologies and leverage ICT tools to interpret complex symptoms and deliver precision medicine are required.


Ensuring everyone has adequate access to health care


At the same time, we urgently need investments in public health and primary care workers who can manage the continuum of care and face-to-face relationships with patients, particularly those with chronic care needs.


Making greater use of innovative health service delivery models


Finally, we also need to invest in community and health workers who can more efficiently deliver routine care for people requiring simple interventions.


The importance of international co-operation


Effective international co-operation is needed to help mitigate the negative effects of health personnel migration and to safeguard the rights to mobility of health workers, in line with the WHO Global Code of Practice and international conventions. It is important that these efforts are consistent with the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.


It is also necessary to improve the harmonisation of skills and competencies and enhance mutual recognition of professional qualifications, following the ongoing practice in regional labour markets (like the EU, ASEAN, CARICOM and MERCOSUR).


Ladies and Gentlemen:


Delivering the right jobs, with the right skills, in the right places will require:

  • adapting education and training systems to match the evolution of care needs and the transformation taking place in delivery systems;
  • focusing education and training on competencies, and regular skill re-assessments;
  • innovating the scope of practice of different categories of health professionals, so that they can make full use of their skills; and
  • strengthening international co-operation to ensure a better match between skills acquired abroad and job requirements.


These reforms will be crucial to improve labour productivity in the sector and deliver high‑quality care. But they will also have an important consequence: if countries individually make progress towards having the right number of health workers and improving the way they use the skills of their health workforce, then they will need to rely less on foreign‑trained health workers. This will make global labour markets fairer.  


Thank you.