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The report highlights that low pay and demanding working conditions are commonly found in the health and care sector that women work in.

WHO Report Reveals Gender Inequalities in Health Systems

Work done primarily by women tends to be paid less and have poor working conditions

World Health Organization
Published:Mar 14, 2024
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A new report published by the World Health Organization (WHO), illustrates how gender inequalities in health and care work negatively impact women, health systems, and health outcomes.

The Fair share for health and care: gender and the undervaluation of health and care work report outlines underinvestment in health systems results in a vicious cycle of unpaid health and care work, lowering women’s participation in paid labor markets, harming women’s economic empowerment and hampering gender equality.

Women comprise 67 percent of the paid global health and care workforce. In addition to this paid work, it has been estimated that women perform an estimated 76 percent of all unpaid care activities. The report highlights that low pay and demanding working conditions are commonly found in the health and care sector. Devaluing caregiving—which is work performed primarily by women—negatively impacts wages, working conditions, productivity, and the economic footprint of the sector.

Underinvestment worsened gender inequality in healthcare work 

The report illustrates that decades of chronic underinvestment in health and care work are contributing to a growing global crisis of care. With stagnation in progress towards universal health coverage (UHC), resulting in 4.5 billion people lacking full coverage of essential health services, women may take on even more unpaid care work. The deleterious impact of weak health systems combined with increasing unpaid health and care work are further straining caregivers' health and the quality of services.

“The Fair share report highlights how gender-equitable investments in health and care work would reset the value of health and care and drive fairer and more inclusive economies,” said Jim Campbell, PhD, the WHO director for Health Workforce. “We are calling upon leaders, policy-makers, and employers to action investment: It is time for a fair share for health and care.”

The report presents policy levers to better value health and care work:

  1. Improve working conditions for all forms of health and care work, especially for female-dominant occupations. 

  2. Include women more equitably in the paid labor workforce.

  3. Enhance conditions of work and wages in the health and care workforce and ensure equal pay for work of equal value.

  4. Address the gender gap in care, support quality care work, and uphold the rights and well-being of caregivers.

  5. Ensure that national statistics account for, measure, and value all health and care work

  6. Invest in robust public health systems

Investments in health and care systems not only accelerate progress on UHC but also redistribute unpaid health and care work. When women participate in paid health and care employment, they are economically empowered and health outcomes are better. Health systems need to recognize, value, and invest in all forms of health and care work.

- This press release was originally published on the World Health Organization website