Until recently, little attention had been paid to acknowledging how health and social sector jobs — and underlying education and training — can lead to inclusive economic growth. With annual spending of nearly $6 trillion, the world’s health sector represents an engine of enormous economic opportunity, particularly for women, who hold 70 percent of all health jobs.

In May, the 70th World Health Assembly unanimously adopted the joint program #Working4Health, supported by the International Labor Organization, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and WHO. This Five-Year Action Plan for Health Employment and Inclusive Economic Growth takes a multisectoral and interorganizational approach “to transform the global health workforce so as to be able to meet the needs for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs].”

As part of the five-year action plan, three policy positions serve as an important guide for reframing global efforts to address the shortage of health workers and advance UHC and sustainable development:

1. Women: To reduce the gender gap and add up to $6 trillion to the global economy by 2025, nations must eliminate gender biases and inequities for women at work, including in the health labor market. Investments and strategies to improve economic participation and empowerment could be gender transformative.

2. Job creation: To stimulate investments that create decent health and social sector jobs, particularly for women and youth, nations must develop and implement labor market policies to achieve a sustainable health and social workforce.