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Health and long-term care workforce: demographic challenges and the potential contribution of migration and digital technology

The EU’s health and long-term care workforce will need to grow by 11 million workers between 2018 and 2030 to meet the demands of an ageing population, according to a JRC report.

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The report recently published by the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) analyses the EU’s changing demography and the impact on demand for health and long-term care. It finds that the rise in the number of older people has been increasing the demand for these services, generating a rising demand for a qualified workforce.

Much of that demand is being met by domestic education and training, while migration from third countries and intra-EU mobility also has an increasingly important role to play. In 2018, there were almost two million health and long-term care workers in the EU working in a different country than the one they were born in.

The JRC report recommends integrating current labour migration channels with more specific considerations for health and long-term care systems, while keeping in line with the WHO Global Code of Practice. This could foster mobility flows, with benefits for countries of origin and destination. It would also facilitate recognition of qualifications and full activation of skills of the EU's migrant workforce.

The report also highlights the role of digital technologies, such as AI and telemedicine, in health and long-term which have, amongst others, transformed the delivery of health and care services and generated new type of professional roles and skillsets, therefore affecting both the demand for and the supply of healthcare workers. However, the full implementation of digital technologies – and its potential effect on health and care workforce – remain closely related to numerous ethical, social and labour market aspects.

The Commission has taken a series of policy initiatives to support EU countries to address the challenges of an ageing population and the impact on the health and long-term care sectors, including the first steps towards a European Health Union. The Commission's recent Green Paper on Ageing opened a wide public consultation, also on how to build resilient health and long-term care systems. Another important initiative to be put forward soon is the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan. The Pillar provides a compass to tackle the social and economic challenges of our time, including demographic change.