Why sub-Saharan African health workers migrate to european countries that do not actively recruit: A qualitative study post-migration

Annelien Poppe*, Elena Jirovsky, Claire Blacklock, Pallavi Laxmikanth, Shabir Moosa, Jan De Maeseneer, Ruth Kutalek, Wim Peersman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Many studies have investigated the migration intentions of sub-Saharan African medicalstudents and health professionals within the context of a legacy of active international recruitment byreceiving countries. However, many health workers migrate outside of this recruitment paradigm. This paperaims to explore the reasons for migration of health workers from sub-Saharan Africa to Belgium and Austria;European countries without a history of active recruitment in sub-Saharan Africa.Methods: Data were collected using semistructured interviews. Twenty-seven health workers were interviewedabout their migration experiences. Included participants were born in sub-Saharan Africa, had trained ashealth workers in sub-Saharan Africa, and were currently living in Belgium or Austria, though not necessarilycurrently working as a health professional.Results: Both Austria and Belgium were shown not to be target countries for the health workers, who insteadmoved there by circumstance, rather than choice. Three principal reasons for migration were reported: 1)educational purposes; 2) political instability or insecurity in their country of origin; and 3) family reunification.In addition, two respondents mentioned medical reasons and, although less explicit, economic factors werealso involved in several of the respondents' decision to migrate.Conclusion: These results highlight the importance of the broader economic, social, and political contextwithin which migration decisions are made. Training opportunities proved to be an important factor formigration. A further development and upgrade of primary care might help to counter the common desire tospecialize and improve domestic training opportunities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number24071
JournalGlobal Health Action
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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