The Origin, Family Structure and Labour Supply of Overseas Born Nurses


  • Juthika Badkar Victoria University of Wellington
  • Paul Callister Victoria University of Wellington
  • Robert Didham Statistics New Zealand



Although a third of nurses in New Zealand are born overseas, little is known about their composition. Among OECD countries, the reliance on overseas trained health professionals is currently strong and growing. Globally, as the population ages, and fertility rates decline, the demand for health professionals, particularly doctors and nurses is projected to increase over the next 20 years. It is estimated that in the OECD countries, 11 percent of employed nurses and 18 per cent of employed doctors were foreign born, however there are significant differences between the foreign-born and foreign-trained health professionals (OECD 2007).

The purpose of this paper is to gain an understanding of the origin of overseas-born nurses, their labour market outcomes and their family structures. In the OECD countries, the main countries of origin of foreign-born doctors and nurses are India and 1he Philippines respectively. In New Zealand nurses from Great Britain form the largest supply of migrant nurses followed by the Philippines. Overall, nurses were more likely to migrate as part of a family unit compared to other occupational groups like doctors, however differences were observed by nationality.

The proportion of international nursing students has also grown, from 1 percent (of total enrolments) in 1995 to 7 percent in 2006. The proportion of registered nurses who were born in New Zealand has also changed and decreased from 82 percent in 1991 to 72 percent in 2006. These differences are more evident when examined by age groups.

Our study illustrates that severe staff and skill shortage within the health systems of developed countries such as New Zealand has led to the rise in migration of nurses, leading to significant changes in the proportion of nurses who were horn in New Zealand and overseas. The shift from a primarily New Zealand born to an increasingly diverse nursing workforce raises some challenges and opportunities when delivering services to a diverse range of clients.


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Author Biographies

Juthika Badkar, Victoria University of Wellington

Institute of Policy Studies

Paul Callister, Victoria University of Wellington

Institute of Policy Studies