“Despite all the interest in self-treatment and the growing role of eHealth and mHealth, it is still – overwhelmingly – health workers that provide health services to the population. Jobs in the health and social sector now account for more than 10% of total employment in many OECD countries. In 2013, 3.6 million doctors and 10.8 million nurses were working in OECD countries, up from 2.9 million doctors and 8.3 million nurses in 2000.
“Despite this growth, discussions about health workforce issues in OECD countries often continue to focus on shortages of health workers, with persisting concerns that the upcoming retirement of the “baby-boom” generation of doctors and nurses might exacerbate such shortages. This publication finds that OECD countries anticipated this wave of retirement by increasing student intakes in medical and nursing education programmes over the past decade. Many new doctors and nurses are thus expected to enter the labour market to replace those who will retire. In addition, pension reforms and other initiatives have increased retention rates of doctors and nurses in the profession, also contributing to maintain if not increasing the supply. In this context, health workforce concerns have shifted from worries of widespread shortages towards more specific issues related to ensuring the right mix of health workers, with the right skills, and providing services in the right places, to better respond to changing population health needs.”
Source: OECD (2016), Health Workforce Policies in OECD Countries: Right Jobs, Right Skills, Right Places, OECD, Health Policy Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris. dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264239517-en
“The international migration of skilled workers is not unique to the health sector, but it continues to raise serious concerns when it is exacerbating shortages of skilled health workers in those countries (notably low-income countries) that are already suffering from even more acute shortages. When they adopted the Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel in 2010, all WHO members committed to improving their health workforce planning and to respond to their future needs without relying unduly on the training efforts of other countries. The goal is not necessarily to achieve self-sufficiency, but to avoid relying systematically on other countries to fill domestic needs by training a sufficient number domestically.
“The marked increase in domestic education and training efforts in many OECD countries over the past decade has already reduced considerably the inflows of foreign-trained doctors and nurses moving to these countries. This is notably the case in the United States – the biggest importer of foreign-trained doctors and nurses – where the inflows of foreign-trained nurses in particular is now much lower compared to what it was ten years ago (Figure 4). In the United Kingdom (the second biggest importer), the number of new domestic medical graduates now exceeds the number of foreign-trained doctors as the main source of new inflows in the health system. The composition of foreign-trained doctors has also changed considerably over the past decade, with fewer doctors coming from Africa and Asia, and a growing number of doctors coming from other EU countries.
“Within the EU, there have been large emigrations of doctors and nurses from some of the new EU member countries in Central and Eastern Europe to Western Europe following their accession, as barriers to mobility were reduced notably through the mutual recognition of professional qualifications. In some cases, this emigration has seriously affected the supply of health workers, particularly in rural areas which were already lacking skilled health workers. To address this expatriation issue, several Central and Eastern European countries have introduced measures to increase the retention of doctors and nurses by increasing salaries and improving working conditions, despite tight budget constraints.”
Source: OECD (2016), Health Workforce Policies in OECD Countries: Right Jobs, Right Skills, Right Places, OECD Health Policy Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris. dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264239517-en
Health Systems Facts is a project of the Real Reporting Foundation. We provide reliable statistics and other data from authoritative sources regarding health systems in the US and several other nations.
Page last updated Nov. 9, 2021 by Doug McVay, Editor.