Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Migration of health-care workers from developing countries: strategic approaches to its management

Barbara Stilwell, Khassoum Diallo, Pascal Zurn, Marko Vujicic, Orvill Adams, & Mario Dal Poz


Of the 175 million people (2.9% of the world’s population) living outside their country of birth in 2000, 65 million were economically active. The rise in the number of people migrating is significant for many developing countries because they are losing their better-educated nationals to richer countries. Medical practitioners and nurses represent a small proportion of the highly skilled workers who migrate, but the loss for developing countries of human resources in the health sector may mean that the capacity of the health system to deliver health care equitably is significantly compromised. It is unlikely that migration will stop given the advances in global communications and the development of global labour markets in some fields, which now include nursing. The aim of this paper is to examine some key issues related to the international migration of health workers and to discuss strategic approaches to managing migration.