UHC and Informal Workplaces

By Cother Hajat

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Forum on Public–Private Partnerships for Global Health and Safety (PPP Forum) held their inaugural meeting July 29 and 30, 2014 and recently published their recommendations in the report: “Approaches to Universal Health Coverage and Occupational Health and Safety for the Informal Workforce in Developing Countries.” Informal employment can be through formal or informal enterprises and households, and represents a large majority of the workforce in some areas of the world, approximately 45% in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and up to 82% in South Asia. Universal health coverage (UHC) has been recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a key element in reducing social inequity and a critical component of sustainable development and poverty reduction. Three primary objectives of UHC were identified: population coverage, essential package of services, and financial protection. Two recurring themes from the meeting included the potential of global employers to provide coverage to informal sector workers, and the need to understand and map the size, characteristics, and needs of the informal sector workers. The recommendations for achieving UHC from the meeting were summarized using the schematic (see picture above).

Derek Yach from The Vitality Institute suggested five reasons why global employers should be investing in the health and well-being of informal sector workers:

  1. Corporate supply chain: The health and well-being of informal workers in the supply chain affects productivity just as the health and well-being of formal employees do.
  2. Future employees: Informal workers are the potential future workforce.
  3. Consumer base: Investing in the health of informal workers as their consumer base can improve their stability and purchasing power.
  4. Reverse innovation: especially where the price point is extremely low and where developing new products and services can be achieved in a cost-efficient way.
  5. Corporate reputation: highlighting the positive impact on their reputation of benefits or avoidance of harm to the health of the community.

Other potential ways forward included developing the right tools, being able to measure health outcomes, sharing of information on the health status of the workforce, and providing technical assistance to UHC efforts through the application of various tools that corporations may have developed, such as insurance models and wellness packages. Derek Yach shared the global reporting initiative, an initiative to develop corporate health metrics and build them into the reporting structures of the sustainability index.

Does your office offer informal workplaces for collaboration? Tweet at us @VitalityUSA.


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