This paper discusses gender issues manifested within health occupations and across them. It examines gender dynamics in medicine, nursing, community health workers and home carers and explores from a gender perspective issues concerning delegation, migration and violence, which cut across these categories of health workers. Gender plays a critical role in determining the structural location of women and men in the health labour force and their subjective experience of that location. The paper shows that woman are overrepresented in caring, informal, part-time, unskilled and unpaid work and within occupations there are significant gender differences in terms of employment security, promotion, remuneration.
The paper concludes that health systems can replicate and exacerbate many of the social inequalities that they are meant to address and be immune from. Health systems rely on a foundation of workers that are often informal, poorly paid or not paid at all, poorly supported and disproportionately female. To reduce gender biases, affirmative action and training measures must be coupled with efforts that qualitatively transform how health work is conceived of and organised, so that the multiple forms of gender bias that act to obscure, devalue and constrain women’s contributions to health care are addressed.