The Economic Impact of Medical Migration: An Overview of the Literature

M.M. Rutten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


This paper provides an overview of the evidence and applied literature on medical migration. The economic impacts of medical migration have been little researched, causing a polarisation in the debate between its critics and its proponents. The paucity of quantitative studies may be explained by the lack of comprehensive and consistent data. Investments in statistical resources on medical migration are therefore a major priority. The available evidence suggests that particularly English-speaking countries in Sub-Saharan African countries and the Caribbean with relatively few health workers and a high disease burden suffer most from the medical brain drain. However, the exodus of health workers is not the main cause of the health status crisis, but rather a symptom of deeper underlying problems, which often extend beyond the health sector towards the broader economic and political environment. In such situations, medical brain drain does pose challenges for human resource management and health service delivery. The only effective and long-term sustainable policy is one that addresses the underlying push and pull factors. Reforms have to be country-led, but may be supported via temporary migration schemes, remittances, enhancement of diaspora networks, and financial aid for which a strong moral case exists.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-325
JournalThe World Economy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • sub-saharan africa
  • health-care workers
  • brain-drain
  • developing-countries
  • human-resources
  • nurses
  • professionals
  • doctors
  • crisis
  • restrictions


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