The healthcare sector constitutes one of the most significant sectors in the EU economy with
an important employment potential due to an ageing population and increasing demand for
However, the sector faces major challenges which are similar to all Member States: the health
workforce itself is ageing with insufficient new recruits to replace those that are retiring,
problems of retention due to demanding working conditions and relatively low pay in some
health occupations. In addition, new care patterns to cope with chronic conditions of the elderly
and the rise in new technologies will require new skills and competences.
Given the current tough budget constraints, health expenditures are under strong pressure to
provide high quality healthcare cost effectively and to make fundamental reforms in the way
in which they deliver healthcare. EU health systems need to find innovative solutions through
new technologies, products and organizational changes which depend on a high quality
motivated health workforce of sufficient capacity and with the right skills to meet the
growing demands of healthcare.
Recognising the European dimension of the challenges at hand, Members States agreed on the added value of EU action and European collaboration, inviting the Commission to propose an action plan to assist Member States tackle the key challenges facing the health workforce in the medium to longer term1.
2. DEFINING AND MEASURING HEALTHCARE JOBS
The healthcare sector comprises workers primarily delivering healthcare services such as health professionals (doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and dentists), allied health professionals, public health professionals, health management and administrative and support staff. Many people also work indirectly for the healthcare sector such as those employed in the healthcare industries and support services, pharmaceutical, medical device industries, health insurance, health research, e-Health, occupational health, spa etc2. Health professionals can be salaried or self employed. In several countries3 General Practicians and outpatient specialists are mostly independent self employed with private practices or are contracted by funds or hospitals to provide services.
The healthcare workforce thus makes up a large part of the so-called "white jobs" which also include professionals delivering social care services.