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Working Together to Address Health Workforce Mobility in Europe

The free movement of people is a cornerstone of an open and integrated Europe. Yet the labor migration of Europeans from lower-income countries in southern and eastern Europe to higher-income countries in northern and western Europe has had significant impact on the workforce—including the loss of skilled health professionals in their most productive years.

Indeed, since 1989, hundreds of thousands of European health professionals have left their countries of origin for more promising opportunities in the west and north. Denied opportunities for decent work at home, and recruited by countries facing their own labor shortages, their mobility is a byproduct of a failure throughout Europe to develop health workforces in an evidence-based and strategic way. Ultimately, this failure threatens the human right to health.

This brief offers policymakers six key insights, drawn from a literature review and interviews with European experts, on the migration and mobility of health professionals. These insights are offered within a framework that prioritizes human rights, gender equality, and worker solidarity.

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