Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz
Department of Labor and Employment
(Following is the full statement, entitled, “Stimulating creation of new employment opportunities in the health sector”, delivered by Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz at the first meeting of the United Nations High Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth (UN CHEEG) on 23 March in Lyons, France. Sec. Baldoz is one of 25 Commissioners of the UN body tasked by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to propose strategic action and securing political commitments in achieving the goals of decent work, universal health coverage, and inclusive growth, in the context of the 2030 Social Development Agenda. The UN CHEEG is co-chaired by H.E. François Hollande, President of France, and H.E. Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa.)
Stimulating creation of new employment opportunities in the health sector
Excellencies, I am privileged to be part of the Commission to help achieve the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) No. 3 on Health, No. 4 on Education, No. 5 on Gender Equality, No. 8 on Decent Work and Economic Growth, and No. 10 on Reduction of Inequality. These cross cutting concerns require strong policy coherence to ensure the effective attainment of these highly important goals.
Let me share my thoughts as an official from a developing country and a country of origin of migrant health professionals.
We advocate for increased investment in basic health services and in education and training of health personnel. In our case, the total health expenditure of 4.6 percent as share to our GDP has been steadily rising since 2005, but still short of the 2013 global average of 10 percent per World Health Organization (WHO) standard. We have to expand our universal health coverage, which stands at 84 percent of the total 100-M population. Our annual appropriation on social services for health and education has the biggest allocation, but we need to produce the right number of health personnel with the right skills for the right jobs in the right places. While we have adequate supply of general nurses, we lack those with specialization to meet domestic demand especially in under-served areas including foreign demand in countries with shortages in specific fields. In order to develop policies to make our human resources for health responsive to the goal of Universal Health Care, the Human Resources for Health (HRH) Network, led by our Department of Health and co-chaired by the Department of Labor and Employment, has included as members the economic development, finance, budget and civil service ministries for policy coherence.
Targeting women and unemployed youth in the development of opportunities can also be strategic steps in addressing our SDGs on health, education and decent work for economic growth. In the Philippines, the huge number of unemployed nurses, estimated at around 300,000, are human resources that need to be harnessed for the delivery of the needed health care in the country and to meet foreign demand.
The Group of Experts can help the Commission ensure a balance flow of health professionals from countries of origin (COO) to countries of destination (COD) by identifying these shortages and the ILO, OECD, and WHO can help develop specialized training regulations on skills competencies, certification system, and mutual recognition of qualifications aligned with global standards, in cooperation with governments and the private sector. This course of action will address brain drain in COO while ensuring sustainability of supply of qualified health professionals in COD. Germany, for example, is open to developing training regulations in geriatric care and mutual recognition of qualifications under our bilateral agreement using its WHO-ILO HRD technical cooperation program. It is also developing digital information for faster reintegration of foreign health professionals into the culture at the workplace and in German communities. To address inequitable distribution of health workers, the Experts can identify focal areas of cooperation for Official Development Assistance (ODA) that provide highest impact on public health, sustainability of supply of health workers, and deployment of health personnel especially in under-served areas. In the case of the Philippines, where rich countries are supporting our peace efforts and reconstruction for better communities in areas devastated by calamities, channeling ODA on health services and specialized training programs in these areas as a priority can be enjoyed as “peace and health dividends”.
We advocate for fair, safe, and ethical migration of health professionals. Both countries of origin and destination should adhere strictly to decent work standards of the ILO, including occupational safety and health standards, the ILO Convention 149 (Nursing Personnel Convention), the WHO Global Code of Practice on International Recruitment of Health Professionals, and the UN Convention on the Promotion and the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families. The Experts can identify specific measures, including gender- sensitive initiatives at the national and international levels, including bilateral and multi-lateral arrangements, to prevent abuses and malpractices of the profession, commission of illegal recruitment acts, and trafficking of persons in all forms, specifically debt bondage due to excessive collection of placement fees from the workers. The Experts can also identify global standards of security and protection of health workers during war, disease epidemic, and other crisis that expose them to health, safety, and security risks, consistent with the 2015 UN Resolution on the protection of health workforce involved in management of infectious diseases. The emergence of infectious diseases, such as Ebola, MERS-COV and Zika virus points to the need for countries, in particular developing countries, to strengthen capacities for early warning, risk reduction, and management of national and global health risks. In the Philippines, health facilities that deal with these health threats could benefit from technical assistance to deliver effective responses to address this global concern.
We are ready to work with the Experts and the Commission to help generate decent work for health personnel towards sustainable inclusive growth.
Thank you, Excellencies, and God bless.