Is health workforce sustainability in Australia and New Zealand a realistic policy goal?

James M. Buchan, Lucio Naccarella, Peter M. Brooks

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


This paper assesses what health workforce 'sustainability' might mean for Australia and New Zealand, given the policy direction set out in the World Health Organization draft code on international recruitment of health workers. The governments in both countries have in the past made policy statements about the desirability of health workforce 'self-sufficiency', but OECD data show that both have a high level of dependence on internationally recruited health professionals relative to most other OECD countries. The paper argues that if a target of 'self-sufficiency' or sustainability were to be based on meeting health workforce requirements from home based training, both Australia and New Zealand fall far short of this measure, and continue to be active recruiters. The paper stresses that there is no common agreed definition of what health workforce 'self-sufficiency', or 'sustainability' is in practice, and that without an agreed definition it will be difficult for policy-makers to move the debate on to reaching agreement and possibly setting measurable targets or timelines for achievement. The paper concludes that any policy decisions related to health workforce sustainability will also have to taken in the context of a wider community debate on what is required of a health system and how is it to be funded.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-155
Number of pages4
JournalAustralian Health Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

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