Physician emigration: should they stay or should they go? A policy analysis

Mário Amorim-Lopes*, Álvaro Almeida, Bernardo Almada-Lobo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Physician emigration can either function as an escape valve to help the health labour market clear from a supply surplus, or aggravate the problem further in case of a shortage. Either way, policy-makers should be particularly aware and devise policies to minimize the occurrence of an imbalance in the physician workforce, which may require physician retention policies if barriers to entry and other market rigidities can not be removed. To this purpose we have developed an agent-based computational economics model to analyse physician emigration, and have used it to study the impact of potential short- and long-term retention policies. As a real case study we have calibrated it with data from Portugal, which features a very particular health system with many rigidities. Results show that all policies are capable of increasing the workforce size, but not all reduce emigration. Also, the effect of return migration is non-negligible, and may substantially offset the impact on the workforce size. Furthermore, the welfare impact of the policies varies considerably. Whether policies to retain physicians should be enacted or whether policy makers should let physicians go will depend on the type of imbalance present in the health system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)905-931
Number of pages27
JournalComputational Economics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • Agent-based computational economics
  • Health policy
  • Healthcare workforce planning
  • International medical graduates
  • International migration
  • Physician migration


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