Nurses worldwide need better pay to make profession more attractive – ICN

Governments are failing to use nurse pay and conditions as a lever of workforce expansion

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There is an urgent worldwide need to improve nurses' pay and working conditions, to make the profession more attractive, a report says.

Governments across the globe, including in the UK, are not using nurses’ pay to improve recruitment and retention despite a clear need for it, says the International Council of Nurses (ICN).

An analysis of pay data collected by the ICN international and Asian workforce forums from 2006-16 details a fall in nurses’ purchasing power in real terms over the decade.

In Asia, there is also evidence of stagnation and a decline in pay over the past two years.

In England, nurses are currently being consulted on a pay offer that could end a seven-year cap on pay rises.

I​​​​​​CN director of nursing and health policy and report author Howard Catton, acknowledged there are limitations to the data, but said the findings clearly show ‘significant periods of minimal pay growth’ worldwide.

‘With a predicted shortage of nine million nurses by 2030, and global health priorities such as non-communicable diseases, it is vital for governments to invest in nursing,’ Mr Catton said.

Recruitment and retention

Politicians must address difficulties in the recruitment and retention of nurses, including starting salaries and prospects of career and pay progression, he added.

The timeline for the data coincides with the beginning of the global economic crisis in 2007/8.

While there is evidence of rising pay in the past two years in some countries, this appears to be driven by a limited number of nations rather than being a global trend, the report states.

Ageing workforce

Nurse turnover appeared to have increased, partly due to workforce ageing, but also because of heavy workloads, low compensation and poor working conditions, all of which are causing nurses to leave the profession.

These trends are set against the backdrop of a global shortage of nurses estimated to be nine million.

Mr Catton said: ‘Despite the current and predicted shortage, it appears pay is not being used as a lever to improve either the recruitment or retention of nurses.

‘All governments have a responsibility to ensure the safety and security of their citizens and this includes having a sufficient number of healthcare professionals, because the consequences of not doing so are detrimental to human health and mortality.’

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