Brain drain of nurses from sub-Saharan Africa : a study of causes, implications and policies in sending and receiving countries


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Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus. Fakultet for samfunnsfag

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Master in International Social Welfare and Health Policy


There is a global competition for health workers. Apparently, those in most need of health care workers are also the biggest losers in this competition. There are 57 countries in critical shortage of health workers globally, and 36 of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. In this region, health care resources are dire and at the same time bear the most distressing health indicators on the globe. Health workers, in this case nurses, suffer from unbearable working and living conditions in their country of origin and seek elsewhere for better salaries, safer working conditions, better living conditions and a better life. This has for several years created a brain drain of skilled labour from where it is most needed, leaving already fragile health systems even more vulnerable. This study examines different theories concerning why nurses choose to migrate to more industrialized countries in the West, which also represents the theoretical framework of the study. The underlying idea is that theories of migration must be addressed in order to successfully manage to reduce the migration and brain drain from developing countries. The theoretical framework is used to assess policies developed and implemented in both sending and receiving countries, as well as on an international level, in order to change this trend. In order to study the policies, the framework ‘stages heuristic’ was applied, as it was found logically justifiable in this setting, giving a structured overview of the policies included. The countries represented are Norway, the United Kingdom, Ghana and Malawi, as well as the World Health Organization and the European Union. The results of the study explain the outcome of different policies implemented in the countries included and how it has contributed to changes in the trend of nurse migration. It foster the interaction between countries, and clarifies the importance of cooperation between governments, as well as ways forward in dealing with brain drain from low to high-income countries.


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