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There are many reasons why health and social care workers, mostly women, choose to leave their families behind and migrate to other countries. They are pushed out by low wages and impossible working conditions. They are drawn by a desire to gain experience and qualifications. They hope to earn more so they can send money home to improve the lives of their children.
There are also problems in the developed world. Many have left due to deteriorating working conditions caused by cuts in financing. And the workforce is aging, with many choosing to retire.
To temporarily address the growing staff shortages, rich countries recruit health workers and professionals in huge numbers from developing countries, where the health situation is even worse and the skilled staff are badly needed.
In many cases, migrant health workers are badly treated. They are often placed in positions unrelated to their skills and training – for example, nurses may be placed as home support workers. They may suffer from lower than expected pay, higher than expected living costs, poor working conditions, and new workload pressures. They sometimes face gender and racial discrimination, and often lack access to union support.
PSI has undertaken a major, on-going campaign to address the issues of migration, and the needs of migrant workers. This initiative aims to help fully inform workers before they migrate, assist them in connecting with unions in receiving countries, and assist them in putting their new skills and experience to work to improve health care delivery when they return home.
Workers have the right to migrate and seek to improve their lives. They must be treated with respect. The developing world should not be used as a source of cheap labour. The positive side of migration must be encouraged. When workers return home after a time abroad, as most of them do, they must have the opportunity to share new skills, improved qualifications, and experience with new technology to benefit people in their own country.
For more information please check our migration pages