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International Mobility of Health Professionals and Health Workforce Management in Canada: Myths and Realities


  • Jean-Christophe Dumont
  • Pascal Zurn
  • Jody Church
  • Christine LeThi


This report examines the role played by immigrant health workers in the Canadian health workforce but also the interactions between migration policies and education and health workforce management policies. Migrant health worker makes a significant contribution to the Canadian health workforce. Around 2005-06, more than 22% of the doctors were foreign-trained and 37% were foreign-born. The corresponding figures for nurses are close to 7.7% and 20%, respectively. Foreign-trained doctors play an important role in rural areas as they contribute to filling the gaps. In most rural areas, on average, 30% of the physicians were foreign-trained in 2004. Over past decades the evolution of the health workforce in Canada has been characterised notably by a sharp decline in the density of nurses and a stable density of doctors, which is in contrast with the trends observed in other OECD countries. This evolution is largely the result of measures were adopted at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s in order to address a perceived health workforce surplus. Ce rapport examine le rôle joué par la migration de personnel de santé dans les effectifs de santé au Canada mais aussi les interactions entre les politiques migratoires, la formation et les politiques de gestion de ressources humaines. Le personnel de santé recruté à l’étranger contribue de façon significative aux effectifs de santé au Canada. En 2005-06, plus de 22 % des médecins au Canada sont formés à l’étranger et 37 % d’entre eux sont nés à l’étranger. Respectivement pour les infirmières, la part des personnes formées à l’étranger est de 7.7 % et celle des personnes nées à l’étranger de 20%. Les médecins formés à l’étranger jouent un rôle important dans des zones rurales ayant contribué à réduire au manque d’effectif dans les zones rurales. En 2004, dans la plupart des zones rurales, en moyenne 30 % des médecins sont formés à l’étranger. Au cours des dernières décennies, l’évolution des effectifs de santé au Canada a été marquée notamment par un net déclin de la densité des infirmières et par une densité stable des médecins, ce qui contraste avec les tendances observées dans les pays de l’OCDE. Cette évolution est largement due aux mesures adoptées à la fin des années 80 et au début des années 90 afin de répondre au surplus perçu d’effectif de personnel de santé.

Suggested Citation

  • Jean-Christophe Dumont & Pascal Zurn & Jody Church & Christine LeThi, 2008. "International Mobility of Health Professionals and Health Workforce Management in Canada: Myths and Realities," OECD Health Working Papers 40, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:elsaad:40-en

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    Cited by:

    1. McDonald, James Ted & Worswick, Christopher, 2012. "The migration decisions of physicians in Canada: The roles of immigrant status and spousal characteristics," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(9), pages 1581-1588.
    2. Till Bärnighausen & David E. Bloom, 2009. "Changing Research Perspectives on the Global Health Workforce," NBER Working Papers 15168, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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