WEF White Paper makes the case for the economic power of healthcare

21 May 2024
PR 17

The International Council of Nurses has contributed to a major new White Paper from the World Economic Forum (WEF) featuring innovative thinking to help shape the future of the care economy. ICN’s own International Nurses Day 2024 report, Our Nurses, Our Future: The Economic Power of Care, includes economic analyses of nursing, echoes many of the points raised in the WEF White Paper.

ICN Chief Executive Officer Howard Catton is member of the group of experts on the WEF’s Global Future Council on the Future of the Care Economy, which produced the report.

Mr Catton said: “The bottom line is that there is a crisis in healthcare, exacerbated by the pandemic. Demand is vastly outstripping supply, but care is still being depicted by our governments as a social issue, expected to be provided freely or at a very low cost. Whereas its economic relevance is either dismissed or regarded as an unaffordable burden and constraint on each country’s finances. In fact, the opposite is true, care is the engine room for economic growth, increase productivity, create more jobs and act as a catalyst for change to deliver more just, equitable and secure societies.

‘This White Paper mirrors the findings of ICN’s own report for “The Economic Power of Care”. We must recognise that the sort of societies we are striving for can only be created if we address the issue of inequality in our health systems. Unpaid care work is 9% of global GDP, and women are the face of the care economy, with nursing being a 90% female workforce. Until there is a collective effort by governments to overcome the low pay and the huge barriers to women participating in the healthcare workforce, particularly as nurse leaders, this inequality gap will not be closed.

In a blog published alongside the White Paper, Mr Catton said it is essential to have long-term investment in nursing, creating more jobs, improving their education and leadership, and expanding their clinical skills and expertise.

Mr Catton added: “In short, investment in nurses and healthcare can bring many dividends to societies, not least in finding a way out of the destructive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuilding what were already-fragile health care systems.”

The White Paper contains a review of the current state of the care economy, and an appeal to world leaders to recognise that it is the key to prosperity and growth.

It concludes that the reason for the care economy’s importance is that it refocuses economic thinking on what matters most: people’s social wellbeing and economic prosperity.

The White Paper also calls on governments to invest in the growth and sustainability of the sector and lay the groundwork for “a future where caregiving is elevated to its rightful status as a cornerstone of social and economic progress.

Mr Catton concluded, “The road to economic recovery is founded on good health care, and that cannot exist unless our nurses are supported and funded to reflect their true value to all of society: they are the bedrock on which healthy societies can be built.”

The Future of the Care Economy is based on the Council members’ discussions between April and December 2023 about the possibilities, opportunities and strategies that could lead to the better functioning of the care economy globally.