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


Opening remarks by Angel Gurría

Secretary-General, OECD

23 March 2016

Lyon, France

(As prepared for delivery)



President Hollande, President Zuma, Director General Chan, Director General Ryder, Commissioners, Ladies and Gentlemen:


We are united by a common vision: stronger, fairer, more inclusive economies and societies in which all citizens enjoy high levels of well-being. And few things are as important to the well‑being of people as good physical, mental, emotional and social health.


Good health matters for well-being and our economies


Good health empowers individuals to maximise their contribution to society, helping them to do better at school, be more productive at work, and be happier in their private lives. And, of course, good health also matters for our economies! Let me give you two examples of the economic impact of poor health: between a third and a half of all working‑age people receiving a social protection benefit in OECD countries have a mental health problem; and in Europe, men in poorer health typically earn 40% less per hour than people in good health.


Health is a large and growing sector: it accounts for 10% of GDP or more in advanced countries with a similar share of total employment. In Brazil and South Africa, health represents 9% of GDP; in China, well over 5%. Without quality health-sector jobs and a productive health workforce, good health will remain a dream for many.


So what can we do to make this dream a reality? Concerns about labour and skill shortages in the health sector loom large in many countries, hindering progress towards universal access to good-quality healthcare. The OECD’s multidisciplinary work on health, jobs, skills, and international migration – along with our Inclusive Growth Initiative – shed light on policy actions that could help countries tackle these challenges.


Right jobs, right skills, right places


Our latest publication, Health Workforce Policies in OECD Countries, demonstrates there is a long way to go to ensure that we have workers in the right jobs, with the right skills, in the right places. 

  • Without the right number of jobs, it will not be possible to deliver universal health coverage and respond equitably to the needs of populations and meet the SDG on health. We must train more workers to meet future needs.
  • Without healthcare workers equipped with the right skills, workersmay lack the competencies to cater for theevolvingneeds of our populations and capitalise on the rapid digitalisation of our daily livesto improve care delivery. We must adapt the training models, functions and responsibilities of healthcare workers.
  • Finally, without health workers in the right places – within each country and across countries – health workforce deficits will grow larger in rural areas and in countries with critical shortages. We must think creatively about policies to repair these imbalances.


Ladies and Gentlemen:


Our discussions today can help us identify clear, bold and actionable policies for better health workforce strategies. The OECD is delighted to join WHO and ILO in coordinating the work of the High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth. We stand ready to share our knowledge, tools, data and experience to ensure its success. 


Thank you.