The sector comprises human health activities (hospitals and medical and dental practices), residential care activities (nursing, mental health, elderly, disabled), social services activities without accommodation (elderly, disabled, child day-care) and veterinary activities.
The sector ‘Health and social work’ is a very important sector both measured in the share of costs in GDP and the level of employment.
Sector strengths include a predictable demand and the public trust. Weaknesses include the limited transparency of quality of service costs/prices/fees, the limited capacity to absorb innovations, and the complexity of processes and products.
EU employment in the health and social services sector amounted to about 20 million workers in 2006, the majority of which live in the EU-15 countries. The NMS employ 2.3 million health and social services workers. The workforce in health and social services is dominated by women who form not less than 78% of the workforce. Both in the EU-15 and the new member states 43% of workers is younger than 40 years. Employment in the sector is growing mainly because of a rise in government budgets which are in turn determined by ageing, growing national incomes and the availability of new therapies and medical technologies. Other major drivers of change are the need to provide more personalized services and a more integrated approach to cure and care.
These changes require important new skills. Across all job functions both soft skills and new knowledge will become increasingly important, especially so for high skilled professional job functions. Due to the changing nature of jobs, predefined technical knowledge capabilities will become somewhat less important while skills to adapt and learn new competences and life-long learning will be put at a premium. E-skills will become more important.