The Labour Market for Human Resources for Health in Low- and Middle-Income Countries


Richard M Scheffler, Tim Bruckner, Joanne Spetz

Jul. 11, 2012

All low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) have health worker labour markets. Some of these countries’ markets function better than others and all can be improved. What does it mean when experts say there is a “shortage” of health workers? Is there more than one definition of a shortage and if so, how do we measure it? What is the difference between the need and demand for a health worker? What factors influence wages paid in the public and private health sectors, and how do we know if the wages are adequate to employ workers in rural areas? Why do some LMIC have “ghost workers” in health labour markets? We will explore these and other questions using the basic tools of labour market analysis.

This paper provides an introduction to the terms and tools of labour market analysis for those with little or no formal training in economics. We also connect these labour market principles to real-world case studies from LMIC. The data needed to examine labour markets is also noted to allow human resource practitioners to begin their own empirical examination of health worker labour markets in LMIC. Given the global shortage of people who understand labour markets in health, we hope this report can help increase the global supply.

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