Imbalance in the health workforce is a major concern in both developed and developing countries. It is a complex issue that encompasses a wide range of possible situations. This paper aims to contribute not only to a better understanding of the issues related to imbalance through a critical review of its definition and nature, but also to the development of an analytical framework. The framework emphasizes the number and types of factors affecting health workforce imbalances, and facilitates the development of policy tools and their assessment. Moreover, to facilitate comparisons between health workforce imbalances, a typology of imbalances is proposed that differentiates between profession/specialty imbalances, geographical imbalances, institutional and services imbalances and gender imbalances.