NURSES TEMPTED BY JOB OFFERS
Since the 1950s, money sent home by nurses abroad has been a big earner for the Philippines economy. At the end of 2021, around a third of the more than 900,000 registered nurses in the Philippines were working abroad, according to the advocacy group Filipino Nurses United.
Remittances from nurses bring in around US$8 billion to the economy every year, about 25 per cent of all remittances, which together account for some 9 per cent of gross domestic product.
At the end of 2022, some 170,000 nurses were working in private and public health facilities in the country, while more than 290,000 licensed nurses had left for other careers, the Health Ministry said.
Despite domestic shortages, the Philippines is not included in the WHO’s list of countries with a shortage of healthcare workers. Foreign employers are discouraged from recruiting nurses from nations on the list.
Jocelyn Andamo, secretary-general of Filipino Nurses United, said that recruitment practices of importing countries had become more creative after the pandemic.
She said German recruiters had proposed sponsoring students before they had qualified as nurses, and relocating them and their families.
“Who would say no to that kind of offer?” Andamo asked.
The German ambassador to the Philippines has defended her country’s programme to recruit nurses abroad, calling it a “great success”. Germany’s development agency says the programme “takes into consideration those countries which have a surplus of well-trained nurses”.
Howard Catton, chief executive officer of the International Council of Nurses, a global federation of nurses’ associations, was alarmed that even health officials in the Philippines are now “expressing concern about shortages at home”.
India and the Philippines are the top two sources of foreign nurses in Britain, which is seeking to fill staff shortages in its National Health Service.
“A lot of countries that the UK has looked to recruit from already have worse shortages, and that means that when they lose nurses, it really can have a detrimental impact on the ability of those countries to provide healthcare to their own people,” said Catton.
Even when a government-to-government agreement allows active recruitment from certain countries, Catton said “that doesn’t automatically mean that it compensates the source country for the loss that they experienced”.
Jean Franco is a political science professor at the University of the Philippines who has studied nurse migration in Asia. She said inter-governmental agreements could be useful in setting ethical recruitment standards.
However, she believes most of them “are just really focusing on facilitating recruitment” and often lack provisions on reducing the impact of the brain drain in the Philippines.
“Is the government really monitoring these bilateral agreements? Perhaps we need to enhance them with greater transparency and cooperation with Filipino nurses’ unions and migrant groups to ensure that their concerns are being addressed,” she said.