Pay pulls medics from East to West

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Tijdens, K.G., De Vries,D.H. (2011). Health workforce remuneration Comparing wage levels, ranking and dispersion of 16 occupational groups in 20 countries. AIAS Working Paper 11-111. Amsterdam, the Netherlands: University of Amsterdam. (EN)


A cross country comparison of salaries in the health sector, based on Wage Indicator data, shows that medical doctors from Poland, Russia or the Ukraine could make a small fortune in no time in the United States.

Pay pulls medics from East to West

Across the Atlantic they medical staff from Central and Eastern Europe would on average earn up to 19 times more than back home. Alternatively, staying in Europe but working in the Netherlands or the UK, they would still make 10 times as much as in Warsaw, Moscow or Kiev. This makes the position of medical doctors in those Eastern European countries and Russia exceptionally weak, as compared to their peers elsewhere. In Latin America for example cross country differences in health sector pay are far less dramatic than in Europe. For a pay upgrade alone, medical doctors in South America would have little incentive to move from – say – Argentina to Brazil.

Generally speaking, medical doctors are better off than other health care personnel. They have the highest salaries in 11 health sectors of the 20 countries compared. Personal care workers have overall lowest wages and are definitely lowest paid in 9 of the 20 countries. The wage levels of nurses and midwives vary largely across countries. But apart from medical doctors, in no other health occupation wage differences across countries are wide enough to expect a strong wage pull or push between countries.

The wage comparison between 16 health sector occupations throughout 20 countries, is based on some 40,000 health workforce entries in the Wage Indicator survey over the past 2.5 years. The countries compared
are Argentina, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Russian Federation, South-Africa, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States. Wages are expressed in standardized USD, controlled for PPP and indexed to 2011 levels.