Wemos advocates sustainable and fair health worker policy. Worldwide, health workers are unevenly distributed. It is expected that by 2030, there will be 40 million more health sector jobs, mostly in middle- and high- income countries – while in low-income countries, the shortage of health workers is expected to increase to 18 million. This would have a damaging impact on the health of the populations in these countries. 

This programme is part of the Health Systems Advocacy Partnership for strengthening health systems for sexual and reproductive health and rights, in Sub-Saharan Africa and worldwide. Health workers have become increasingly mobile and their migration patterns have become more dynamic. For example, the increase in health workforce vacancies in European high-come countries – which offer higher salaries and better facilities – attracts trained health workers from low-income countries with poor working conditions and fragile health systems. This exacerbates the workforce shortage in low-income countries and leads to the ‘brain drain’ of valuable human resources.


For their part, low-income countries also attract health workers from other low-income countries, as well as from high-income countries. What is more: health workers do not only migrate between countries, but also within countries, and within and between regions. Health workforce mobility is thus not a one- or two-way street, but rather an entangled web of movement.

WHO Code

Our principle regarding health worker mobility is that we should not give with one hand (through development assistance for health), while also taking with the other (attracting health workers from countries with shortages).


The discussion about the increased global health workforce mobility and migration needs to include redistribution aspects, decent work conditions, and a gender perspective. Together with our African partner organisations, Wemos closely monitors health care institutions, unions, professional organisations, NGOs, health care personnel, recruitment agencies, migrant organisations and ministries to ensure that they adhere to the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel (WHO Code). This code aims to discourage unethical recruitment practices that undermine already weak health systems.


Wemos advocates ethical recruitment of foreign health staff

Human resources for health & gender

In the global health and social sector, women account for 70.3% of the workforce. Of that total, 80% consists of nurses, and 90% of the nurses are women. This makes them the vast majority in the health system. Nevertheless, women are underrepresented in decision-making positions. Moreover, they face a higher risk of (sexual) harassment, discrimination, bias, and deskilling than their male colleagues. We advocate increased investment in skilled human resources for health and decent working conditions, so more women can participate in the formal, remunerated health and social sector, across all cadres, including community health workers. Increased employment opportunities benefit women as individuals – they offer them an income, job security, and career possibilities – and also help strengthen health care delivery services, and the health system as a whole.

Coherent policies for sustainable health workforces

Decision makers in the European Union and member states should apply a coherent approach to the sector policies currently in place to develop and maintain sustainable, gender-sensitive health workforces both in and outside Europe. This requires solid cooperation of the health sector with the sector of education, labour, migration and finances as set out in the WHO Code and other global agreements on the health workforce.

Wemos therefore believes that:

  • EU member states (including The Netherlands) should work to establish a long-term, sustainable, domestic health workforce – and not resort to ‘quick fixes’ by recruiting personnel from countries with an unstable health system.
  • EU member states (including The Netherlands) should co-invest as donors in the health workforce of low-income countries in line with international commitments, such as the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Workers, the Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health, and the five-year Action Plan on Health Employment and Inclusive Economic Growth.
  • EU member states (including The Netherlands) and African countries in the Health Systems Advocacy Partnership should improve their (gender disaggregated) data on health workforce mobility and migration, in line with provisions in the WHO Code and the Association of Medical Councils of Africa (AMCOA) protocol, and following the UN HEEG Commission’s recommendations.

Health Workers For All Coalition

The Health Workers for All Coalition represents global, regional and local diverse groups of civil society organizations, academic institutions, and health workers’ professional associations and unions. The coalition advocates access to health workers for all in order to fulfil the right to health and to reach Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals. The Secretariat of the Health Workers for All Coalition is hosted by Wemos.

Health Workers for All

Before co-founding the Health Workers for All Coalition, Wemos was already working on this theme as the coordinator of the project Health Workers for All – a collaboration between 8 countries that ran from 2013 until early 2016. We collected case studies from different countries, and organised expert meetings and a petition. Visit the Health Workers for All page for more information.

The pandemic and the strong government’s comeback

Over the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has confronted countries all over the world with their health systems problems, which are largely caused by decentralised governments, austerity measures and the introduction of market forces in health care. But the crisis therefore offers opportunities for a comeback of the concept of a strong government with a […]

Why the Netherlands must invest more in development cooperation and global health

In a petition, Dutch organisations, including Wemos, call on the Dutch government to increase their investments in development cooperation and global health during the next government term (2021-2025). Diseases are borderless, and this has become even more evident with the Covid-19 pandemic. It is therefore crucial that countries worldwide work together to make the world […]

Towards health for all in the Year of Corona: our highlights of 2020

What did Wemos do for global health in the year that global health was under severe threat? We advocated the sharing of knowledge on Covid-19 vaccines, raised awareness on the risks of commerce in health, developed a new programme on health worker mobility in Europe, and much more. Check the highlights of our advocacy work […]

Healthcare: a vital profession

Human resources for Health team It is striking what a crisis such as the COVID-19 outbreak can bring about. Five years ago, budget cuts severely restricted funding for long-term care, home care and youth care in the Netherlands. Many care organisations went bankrupt and 80,000 care workers lost their jobs. Then the economy started booming […]

Health workforce financing in Uganda: challenges and opportunities

Only one skilled health professional for every 1,000 inhabitants. A population that has doubled from 21 to over 40 million people in the last ten years. An expenditure of USD 51 per capita on health out of which only USD 8 comes from public domestic sources. This is the present-day situation in Uganda, a country [...]

Turning the health workforce crisis into opportunity

This week, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs published its Youth, Education & Employment Strategy, ‘Youth at Heart’. With this strategy, for which we provided input last summer, the Dutch government aims to invest in more perspective for young people in the Sahel, Horn of Africa and Middle-East and North Africa (MENA) regions, with a [...]

Wemos’ input for the Youth, Education and Employment strategy of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFa) is developing a strategy to invest in better future prospects for young people, with a focus on education and work. Young people (15-35 years) in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and the MENA (Middle East and Northern Africa) regions are the target group. As Wemos, we gave [...]

The importance of investing in health care: Wemos in Vice Versa

The issue of creating jobs in a decent and fair way is one of the most pressing global challenges of our era. This is Vice Versa's - journalism platform on global development – main message of their special jobs report “The World of Work”, published last week. Our director Mariëlle Bemelmans highlights the specific concerns [...]

Creating space for civil society engagement in the Global Financing Facility

Wemos critically follows the developments and outcomes of the Global Financing Facility (GFF) for Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health. In a new interactive story, we tell about our efforts to create space for civil society engagement in the GFF, to influence and improve this global health initiative. The GFF, established in 2015 and [...]

Webinar – Health workers on the move: possibilities and perspectives ten years into the WHO Code. A civil society perspective

On August 19th, the Health Workers For All Coalition – which Wemos co-chairs – held a webinar. During this webinar, Wemos’ global health advocate Corinne Hinlopen and Genevieve Gencianos of Public Services International shared their insights on the ongoing review of the WHO Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel. Corinne about [...]

A Global Action Plan for SDG3

In 2018, the governments of Ghana, Germany and Norway requested the World Health Organization (WHO) to take the lead in an initiative to improve the coordination of international cooperation in the health sector. As a result, 12 multilateral organizations involved in the health sector are preparing a plan to accelerate, align, account and assess their [...]

This week: 72nd World Health Assembly

From May 20-28, the 72nd session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) will take place in Geneva, Switzerland. Each year, senior health officials from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Member States gather there to discuss the WHO’s progress, new goals and global health agenda and challenges. Wemos will be present as well as a civil [...]

Investing in our health workers: less talk, more action!

Health workers worldwide are overburdened, burned out, and even being attacked while doing their job. Last week, during the World Health Worker Week 2019, there was a lot of attention for health workers worldwide. But actually they deserve this attention every week of the year. In their blogs, Wemos’ global health advocate Amanda Banda and [...]

We need more fiscal space for health. How can we create it?

The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 led to increased global attention for the funding gap for health in low- and lower middle-income countries.  Our new factsheet explains how governments can improve their health sectors by increasing their fiscal space for health and investing in their health workers. Health workers in many [...]

Our highlights of 2018

The start of the new year calls for some reflection. This is why we have compiled an overview of our highlights of 2018. We are proud of the results of our work for health for all. Have a look! 2018 was a year of new collaborations, media attention, joint letters, political support and enlarging our [...]

My week with Ann

Corinne  Hinlopen 'Are you angry enough to make these maternal mortality rates drop to 70 by 2030?!' Two piercing dark eyes are looking sternly over a pair of glasses at a group of students. They belong to Dr. Ann Phoya, President of the Association of Malawian Midwives (AMAMI). She is trying to instill a sense [...]

Who is paying Malawi’s health workers?

Despite efforts to increase the number of trained health workers, Malawi still has a large health workforce shortage. Wemos’ new report on financing for health in Malawi shows that insufficient funding is the major factor contributing to this shortage. Malawi has only around 0.5 health workers per 1,000 inhabitants. This is in stark contrast with [...]

NVTG Symposium: come and discuss ethical dilemmas in global health

How can we deal with ethical dilemmas in global health? Come and join the discussion on November 9th with Dr. Ann Phoya (President of the Association of Malawian Midwives) and others at the NTVG Symposium ‘Human resources, research and rights’ in De Rode Hoed in Amsterdam. Wemos will be co-organizing the event, together with NVTG, [...]

New website: Health Workers For All Coalition

The new website of the Health Workers For All Coalition is online now. The coalition, currently consisting of 28 members – one of which is Wemos - seeks to give civil society a platform and voice to ensure access to health workers for all worldwide. The Health Workers For All Coalition aims to bring together [...]

Special edition Global Health Café with Peter Salama

On October 3rd Dr. Peter Salama, WHO Deputy Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response, will be visiting the Netherlands to give a presentation at a special edition of the Global Health Cafés. Wemos is co-organizer of the Global Health Cafés. Dr. Salama will give a presentation on ‘Ebola again: how Fragility and Global Health Threats [...]

Check out our new animation about finance for health workers

What is a health system? And what does lack of finance have to do with the current global health workforce crisis? If you’ve ever wondered about this, look no further and check out our brand new animated film about finance for a sustainable health workforce. Health workers are the crucial backbone of a health system. [...]

Dive into global health with our new knowledge platform

Today we are launching our new knowledge platform. Do you want to know what Wemos has published on topics such as access to human resources for health or medicines? Or are you looking for reports about financing for health in low-income countries? You can find these (and much more) on our knowledge platform. Our publications [...]

Now online: toolkit for a sustainable health workforce in the WHO European Region

A toolkit designed to raise awareness in European countries that the health workforce is an essential investment in universal health coverage is now available online. Wemos contributed to the toolkit in a chapter on capacity building. The toolkit, produced by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Europe, underlines that the health workforce is [...]

nya clinic patients waiting

Scrapping the cap will not solve the global health workforce problem

The decision of the UK to remove restrictions on visas for doctors and nurses from overseas does not take into account underlying global health inequalities, according to Wemos and other organizations in a joint letter. The UK Home Office has announced that it will remove restrictions on the number of Tier 2 visas available to [...]

medicines thermometer

Eyes wide open: where are health workers going?

Jorge Vega Cardenas & Corinne Hinlopen Mobility is an opportunity for health workers who do not find a job in their home country. But their emigration has potentially devastating consequences for countries where the health system is already weak. We call upon WHO and its Member States to pay attention to this pitfall. For every [...]

wemos team 2018

Wemos in 2017: Our annual overview

For nearly 40 years we have been committed to advocate the right to health for everyone worldwide. This did not change in 2017. We are proud to present our new annual overview of 2017. We are fully dedicated to contributing to structural improvements in global health policy. We are therefore excited to share with you [...]

wha wemos 2018

The future of global health, then and now

Linda Mans Last week, the 71st edition of the World Health Assembly and pre-meetings of civil society discussed topics of this very moment such as health and environment, or the root causes of health inequity. At the same time, the Alma-Ata declaration from forty years ago showed its renewed actuality. That made the Assembly my [...]

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Towards enlarged global health thinking

Linda Mans At the launch of the fifth Global Health Watch in Brussels a short time ago, planetary health and justice was very much in my thoughts. This is where health meets ecology. Some 20 years ago, the home base of the Global Health Watch, People’s Health Movement, was founded by grassroots health activists, civil [...]

‘Midwives are the face of the hospital’

 This Saturday, 5 May, is the International Day of the Midwife. Dr. Ann Phoya, President of the Association of Malawian Midwives is visiting the Netherlands this week. She talked with us about the most urgent issues concerning midwives in Malawi. ‘Our key messages for our advocacy on the International Day of the Midwife are not [...]

blog linda mans wemos global health watch

Development assistance for health and equity: is a Global Fund for health the answer?

Mariska Meurs The shortages and unequitable distribution of health workers have been well known for many years. So are the challenges facing Official Development Assistance (ODA), including ODA for Health and in particular for health workers’ salaries. We need long-term sustainable funding for health. Donors remain reluctant to commit to long-term and recurrent expenditures, such [...]

Make health great again and the elephant in the room

With the slogan ‘Make Health Great Again’, the European Health Parliament (EHP) gathered this week to discuss health workforce planning in the European Union. Wemos was present at EHP’s closing session. Among other topics, EHP also debated on health workforce mobility in the EU.  “In the last decade, we saw a spread of healthcare professionals, [...]

Employers and employees in health care: we too advocate fair health worker policy

Wemos is pleased with the 10-year anniversary of the EPSU-HOSPEEM Code of Conduct on Ethical Cross-Border Recruitment and Retention. Another reason to celebrate health, one day after World Health Day. Wemos and the European Public Service Union (EPSU) are collaborating to draw the principles of ethical recruitment of migrant health workers within and to Europe [...]

Wemos workshop mondiale gezondheid mobiliteit migratie zorgpersoneel Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

‘Recruiting health workers from Africa? Just plain unacceptable.’

Elisa Veini Last week, Wemos’ global health advocate Linda Mans shared her knowledge of the migration and mobility of health workers with global health students during two workshops at the University of Groningen. This was her impression of the day. The symposium focused on global health, and on ‘crossing borders and boundaries in medicine’ specifically. [...]

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Global health workforce: brain drain or brain gain?

Today Wemos participates in the Global Health Symposium at the University of Groningen. The symposium focuses on the topic ‘Crossing borders and boundaries in medicine: exploring migration, care and culture. Wemos’ global health advocate Linda Mans will hold an interactive workshop for students on the global mobility of health care professionals and its effects on [...]

Why future African doctors in training should become lobbyists

Renée de Jong The lack of health professionals worldwide is estimated around 18 million in 2030, especially in low- and middle-income countries. But still many African doctors in training doubt whether they will and can join the public health sector after graduating.  Not surprising, because African doctors in training are strongly confronted with the existing [...]

Give people universal access to health services

Worldwide millions of people do not have access to quality health care when they need it, or end up with financial difficulties when they use it. This is why we need an ambitious plan for universal health coverage. Today, on Universal Health Coverage Day, the 2017 Global Forum in Tokyo kicks off, where country delegations, [...]

Health systems advocacy from inside the story

Elisa Veini ‘A good health system finds people where they are, it is easily accessible when and how people need it,’ stated Amanda Banda during the first Global Health Café, organized by ViceVersa in partnership with Wemos and other civil society organizations last Monday. Earlier that day, we spoke with her at Wemos’ office. Amanda [...]

Why lack of money is draining African health sectors

Pearl Heinemans, Angela Owiti, Renée de Jong   If you had to wait twelve hours to pay a visit to your physician, would you return the next time? Or if a midwife yelled at you during labour, or your prescription drugs were never available at your local pharmacy? In the African health sector, these scenarios [...]

Civil society at Global Forum on Human Resources for Health 

This week Wemos is present at the 4th Global Forum on Human Resources for Health in Dublin. On November 15th, we will hold a civil society session with other civil society organizations on how civil society can spur action on ensuring health workers for all. Over the course of five days, experts will discuss how [...]

Global Health Cafes: join the debate on health workers

A new series of global health debates – Global Health Cafes - will kick off on Monday November 20th at the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT). The series is a joint collaboration between Vice Versa, Wemos and other civil society organizations, and will be facilitated by Petra Stienen, who will be joined by national and international [...]

Action plan for sustainable health workforce policy in European region

This week, European health ministers, high-level representatives and civil society organizations have gathered in Budapest for the 67th session of European member states of the World Health Organization (WHO). In a statement that she delivered on behalf of Medicus Mundi International (MMI), Wemos global health advocate Linda Mans stressed that without investments in health workforce, [...]

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We cannot allow this plan to fail: invest in health workforce

Linda Mans & Mariëlle Bemelmans   With changing lifestyles and ageing population, chronic diseases have become increasingly common. Bearing this in mind, it has been predicted that by the year 2030, there will be a demand for 40 million new jobs in healthcare worldwide, most of these in high-income countries. In this same period, the shortage [...]

A Tanzanian view on the health workforce crisis

Renée de Jong   At Wemos we believe in evidence-based advocacy. This also means keeping in touch with people who work on the ground and hearing their stories. During the 70th World Health Assembly in May 2017, Paul Nedermeijer and I had the opportunity to work with the People’s Health Movement (PHM) and the WHO [...]

Investing in health workforce is rewarding

Last week, the UN Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth published its long-expected report. The Commission’s recommendations for educating health workers and creating job opportunities are fully in line with our call for strong health systems. The report ‘Working for health and growth’ has come at a crucial moment. Worldwide, health workforce is unequally distributed. [...]

WHO Euro: for sustainable health workforce

During the 66th meeting of the European member states of the World Health Organization in Copenhagen this week, Linda Mans of Wemos presented a statement about sustainable health workforce. The statement, an initiative of Wemos, was published under the flag of Medicus Mundi International and with support of nine other civil society organizations. Linda Mans [...]

Partnership for more health workers

This week is World Health Worker Week. There is a worldwide shortage of skilled health workers. Within the Health Systems Advocacy Partnership, Wemos works together with partner organizations in the Netherlands, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia for improving the health worker situation. During our visit to Uganda in March this year we took a look at [...]

Health Systems Advocacy Partnership stands for mutual learning

The Health Systems Advocacy Partnership was launched in Uganda during the project kickoff session in Kampala on 18 March 2016. The strategic partnership consists of Amref Flying Doctors, African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation (Achest), Health Action International and Wemos, and is financed by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the fifth partner. [...]

Focus on mobility of health workforce

The challenge of mobility of health professionals and data monitoring are the hot topics of the final conference of the Joint Action on Health Workforce Planning and Forecasting held today and tomorrow in Varna, Bulgaria. Linda Mans of Wemos reports from the conference. The conference brings together knowledge of experts from all over Europe and [...]

Invest in health workers

All people, wherever in the world, should have access to a health worker. During the 138th meeting of the Executive Board of World Health Organization last week, Anke Tijtsma (director of Wemos) presented a statement about the urgency of investing in health workers. This is a challenge in many countries. Therefore, it is crucial that [...]

Visit to health workers in Uganda

In order to make a good start with the new strategic partnership Health Systems Advocacy Partnership, Wemos' director Anke Tijtsma and Policy Researcher Global Health Corinne Hinlopen are visiting Uganda this week. They email their first impressions. During our field visit in Uganda, we visited many clinics together with our strategic partner Amref. It was [...]