The European brain drain and the deteriorating medical workforce

Brain Drain UN 2018

UN Report Shares Global Situation of Young Migrants. Photo credit: OneAmerica. (UNU, 2014)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mr Divij Sharma, a final year medical student belonging to Mumbai, India. He is the State Director of MSAI Eastern Zone (Medical Student Association of India) and a local officer of SCOME at IFMSA. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The migration of health personnel in search of the better standard of living and quality of life, higher salaries, access to advanced technology and more stable political conditions in different places worldwide is what we; the people popularly call as ‘brain drain’. Little do we know that not just India, but European countries are going through the same trend in their own continent.

This migration of health professionals for better opportunities, both within countries and across international borders, is of growing concern worldwide because of its impact on health systems in the developing countries in Europe.

Brain drain is tearing Europe apart. Almost 100,000 Hungarians live in the UK, and an estimated 400,000 have left the country since it joined the EU in 2004.

According to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, people leaving are mostly young, highly educated and single, and usually between 20 and 39.

Because the world had such a low opinion of Eastern Europe, nowadays nobody wants to admit that they live there. For example, let’s just look at the Baltic countries. During my visit in Germany last year for one of the IFMSA research programmes, I met Estonians who asserted that they were in Northern Europe, Latvians who proclaimed that they were in Central Europe.  What is this prejudice all about? Why are people emigrating to Western European countries? The answer is simple and succinct; the statistics

In 2015, in the list of the ten largest advanced economies by GDP in both nominal and PPP terms, 3 of the countries were from Western Europe and another one being Germany which well is a part of Central Europe. The word of mouth also plays an important part in influencing people. People are always saying there is no quality of life in Russia and everyone wants to emigrate.

And this ‘brain drain’ and shortage of workers has become so bad some politicians fear an economic collapse in the next 10 years. Eastern Europe countries like, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia—hold summits to call for more action to prevent the emigration of younger citizens. Many of these countries have made significant investments in infrastructure and education but have not achieved the scientific development, technological and innovative capability either to retain or to recover the human capital that they have generated. The majority of doctors acquire specialized and postgraduate professional qualifications in the host country.

Is there a solution to this problem? This raises the question of whether one can justify losing human capital or whether one should make the additional investment in science and technology and bring about the innovations that will stop the loss and convert it into wealth generation. It is not a situation that Europe can allow to continue unabated.

What’s needed is a change of culture and attitudes. Not only health care institutions and pharmaceuticals but major institutions like the European Investment Bank and the European Commission should confidently back the skillful and talented youth, be far less risk-averse and shed their hostility to rapidly earned wealth. The availability of both high-quality education and opportunities in research are the keys to retaining and attracting regional talent.

About the author

I am Divij Sharma a final year medical student belonging to Mumbai, India. I am the State Director of MSAI Eastern Zone (Medical Student Association of India) and a local officer of SCOME at IFMSA. I am also an esteemed member of Disaster Medicine Student Alumni Council- IFMSA and a newly joined publisher of the MSI Issuu Magazine. As a student, I am very enthusiastically involved in research related and IFMSA general campaigns around the world.  

I am enthusiastically motivated and committed to my work in addition to possessing great verbal and written skills. With the experience I have received from all the past activities, I am adept at strategy development, project management, inspiring new initiatives and improvements of the SCOME group. 

Writing for the European Sting is an honor and I would be thrilled to learn if my article gets published in the near future. My interest and experience align with the qualifications you are seeking and I am certain, I would make a valuable addition to your organization. 

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