IFGH 2012: The Dynamics of Temporary Doctor Migration: The Experience of South African Doctors Working in Ireland

January 31, 2012


Authors: Bidwell P., Thomas S.

Author Affiliations: Health Policy & Management, Trinity College Dublin

Option 1– Scientific / Empirical Research Findings Presented as – Oral Poster


The consequences of doctor migration on health systems has become of increasing concern worldwide. Policy makers have largely tended to perceive doctor migration as a problem and therefore have tried to control it. Yet the more important issues are of managing migration to mitigate the negative impact to the source country, while also boosting supply in the recipient country. The aim of this study is to explore the different phenomena and circumstances under which temporary and permanent doctor migration to Ireland occurs.


South African doctors working in Ireland form a natural case study whereby it is possible to explore the dynamics of temporary movement and contrast this with permanent migration. Quantitative and qualitative methods were used including survey and interviews.


129 temporary migrants completed a postal questionnaire (RR 29.9%). 55 permanent migrants completed the postal questionnaire (RR 29.6%) and a total of 28 in-depth interviews were done. Preliminary analysis shows that of the temporary migrants 27.2% had visited Ireland 1-2 times and 29.6% had visited 3 or more times. The main incentive for temporary migrants choosing Ireland was salary. The in-depth interviews further revealed that temporary migrants enjoy the ‘overseas experience’ and they all cited ease of registration in Ireland. Length of time spent in the destination country is also important, with temporary migrants preferring to spend short periods (approximately 3 weeks away).

Discussion/conclusions/ implications:

The primary motivation for moving differs for temporary and permanent migrants. Temporary migrants are more motivated by economic gain and are less affected by push factors from within their own country. Permanent migrants are more motivated by personal safety and are more affected by push factors from within their own country. The outputs of this research will strengthen the knowledge base of medical migration and will allow for evidence based policies to be developed on ethical recruitment and workforce planning.



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