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Addressing gender biases and inequities in the health and social care workforce is critical to achieving the SDGs

24 April 2018

PSI’s updated research “Tackling Violence in the Health Sector - A Trade Union Response” was highlighted in a webinar held on March 5 by the WHO’s Global Health Workforce Network (GWHN) thematic hub on Gender Equity in the Health and Social Workforce. The updated publication was one of four submissions in the webinar that showcased the wide range of research, policies and actions to achieve gender-transformative change in the health and social workforce.

PSI’s research on gender-based violence in health and social care services gives many examples of all forms of violence experienced by workers in the sector. The overwhelming majority of them are women. The study was originally published in October 2016 and updated in 2018. Ending violence and harassment and gender-based violence is essential in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Of particular note are SDG 3 (health and well-being), SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 5 (gender equality) and SDG 8 (decent work and inclusive economic growth).

The webinar on “Gender Transformative approaches in the health and social workforce” again highlighted some key facts: at least 70% of those who work in the health and social care sector are women; women’s unpaid care work represents half of women’s USD 3 trillion annual contribution to global wealth; resilience in health systems and universal public health coverage cannot be progressed without consideration of the gendered aspects of the workforce.

The WHO Global Health Workforce Network (GWHN) thematic hub on Gender Equity in the Health and Social Workforce, was launched at the 4th Global Forum on Human Resources for Health held in November 2017. The purpose of the Hub is to accelerate large-scale gender-transformative progress to address gender inequities and biases in the health and social workforce for the SDGs as envisioned by the Working for Health five-year action plan.

Co-chair of the Gender Equity Hub is Women in Global Health (WGH) which was established in 2015. WGH was founded with the values of being a movement. WGH works with other global health organisations to encourage stakeholders from governments, civil society, foundations, academia and professional associations and the private sector to achieve gender equality in global health leadership in their space of influence. WGH is a non-profit organization and is virtually based.

In early 2018, PSI was admitted into official relations with the WHO. PSI’s involvement in the Gender equity Hub and other activities that focus on the health workforce reinforce the key role of public services in delivering quality health for all. In addition, the collaboration shines the spotlight on the PSI’s contribution to the campaign to end gender-based violence and the support for an ILO convention to end violence and harassment in the world of work.

Key Messages

  • The dominant narrative on women and health is that of women as recipients of care. Yet women are the power and change agents for health, a role that is undervalued, under-recognised and underinvested in.
  • The health and social sector is an outlier and a source of solutions - it employs more women than any other sector and is job-rich with the anticipated doubling in demand for 40 million more health workers by 2030. Opportunities for gender transformative change through the health and social workforce are timely and unique. They must be seized if we are to achieve the SDGs.
  • The ILO-OECD-WHO Working for Health programme and the Global Health Workforce Network Gender Equity Hub were established in 2017 and are working to accelerate the gender-transformative health workforce strategies.
  • Submissions to the Gender Equity Hub showcase the variety of research, policies and actions that are working to achieve gender-transformative change in the health and social workforce.

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