Global health worker salary estimates: an econometric analysis of global earnings data

Juliana Serje, Melanie Y. Bertram, Callum Brindley, Jeremy A. Lauer

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Background: Human resources are consistently cited as a leading contributor to health care costs; however the availability of internationally comparable data on health worker earnings for all countries is a challenge for estimating the costs of health care services. This paper describes an econometric model using cross sectional earnings data from the International Labour Organization (ILO) that the World Health Organizations (WHO)-Choosing Interventions that are Cost-effective programme (CHOICE) has used to prepare estimates of health worker earnings (in 2010 USD) for all WHO member states. Methods: The ILO data contained 324 observations of earnings data across 4 skill levels for 193 countries. Using this data, along with the assumption that data were missing not at random, we used a Heckman two stage selection model to estimate earning data for each of the 4 skill levels for all WHO member states. Results: It was possible to develop a prediction model for health worker earnings for all countries for which GDP data was available. Health worker earnings vary both within country due to skill level, as well as across countries. As a multiple of GDP per capita, earnings show a negative correlation with GDP-that is lower income countries pay their health workers relatively more than higher income countries. Conclusions: Limited data on health worker earnings is a limiting factor in estimating the costs of global health programmes. It is hoped that these estimates will support robust health care intervention costings and projections of resources needs over the Sustainable Development Goal period.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalCost Effectiveness and Resource Allocation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2018


  • nursing
  • controlled study
  • cost effectiveness analysis
  • global health
  • health care personnel
  • sustainable development

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