Introduction The International Migration of Health Workers: Ethics, Rights and Justice

  • Rebecca S. Shah


Skilled workers have consistently migrated to seek out new and better personal and professional opportunities abroad. Patterns of migration are constantly changing and are greatly facilitated by the ease of international travel, access to information and communications borne of globalisation as well as the increased harmonisation and interdependence of different countries’ economic and employment systems. Globalisation and the prospects of international migration bring both opportunities and challenges. The freedom to pursue migration can prove emancipatory for individuals, culturally enriching for societies, it can stimulate and accelerate progress in professional disciplines and encourage solidarity across borders. Migration is also induced by and serves to reinforce gross global inequalities in health and wealth. In recent decades the particular directional movement of health workers taking their skills from poorer to richer countries has increased apace. Health systems in some of the world’s poorest countries are desperately understaffed and under-resourced and fail to meet even the most basic health needs of their populations. Under these conditions it is unsurprising that migration is an attractive option for health workers, but the loss of their valuable skills further threatens the health, human rights and development goals for the populations they leave behind.


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  1. WHO (2008), EB124/INF.DOC./2: International Recruitment of Health Personnel: A Draft Code of Practice, Summary of the Public Hearing, Geneva: WHO.Google Scholar

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© Rebecca S. Shah 2010

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  • Rebecca S. Shah

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