Health workforce

Sources and classification of health workforce statistics

Population based sources

Population censuses

National population censuses produce statistical information about a country's people, their homes, their socioeconomic conditions and other characteristics. Most censuses ask for the basic demographic characteristics of the respondent (and other household members) including age, sex, place of residence and educational attainment. Censuses with properly designed questions on level and field of education, occupation and place of work of all adult household members can provide the basis for generating nationally representative information on human resources for health: people with advanced education and training in health, people with a health related occupation, and people working in health services industries.

A number of tools and resources are available for guiding the planning, collection, processing and dissemination of results from population censuses from the United Nations Statistics Division and other partners. For some countries, analyses of census data can be facilitated through collaborative research projects aiming to document, archive and harmonize microdata variables for public use. Two main such resources are the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series and the African Census Analysis Project.

Labour force and other household surveys

A labour force survey is a standard household-based survey of work-related statistics. In some countries these types of surveys are conducted among a sample of households every month, in other countries once every 5 years or more. They generally delve into greater details compared to censuses on labour variables, e.g. working hours, occupational safety, secondary employment, duration of unemployment.

Other kinds of household surveys can also provide relevant information for health workforce analysis, for example on people's care-seeking behaviours and choice of health-care provider. The use of an accurate sampling frame and appropriate sampling weights should ensure national representation of the results.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) provides information on national labour force survey exercises, labour statistics and meta-data. General information and relevant resources for designing and implementing household surveys are available through the International Household Survey Network.

While the content and design of sample surveys are highly diverse across countries and over time, important efforts have been made to harmonize data for public use in some countries as well as internationally through microdata archives. For one, the Luxembourg Income Study undertakes a process to enhance comparability and dissemination of microdata from labour force and income surveys that had been collected by the central statistical offices across participating countries.