The rising cost of living in Africa’s most populous nation is one of the major factors furthering the exodus of young medical professionals to other countries.
One such country is the United Kingdom (UK) which has been flexible with its migration requirements in a bid to attract young talents largely from Nigeria’s healthcare sector to take care of its aging population, increasing cases of chronic and lifestyle diseases.
“The truth is Nigerians are being trained in Nigeria and by the time they do their conversion to be a registered nurse or doctor in the UK, they will be paid more and their quality of life will be better,” Jennifer Oyelade, director of Transquisite Consulting said.
She said the country is losing talented nurses and doctors to an economy that is willing to pay them more and give them a better quality of life.
Prices in Africa’s biggest economy surged to a 17- year high last year on the back of the fallout of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows the average yearly inflation for 2022 is 18.76 percent, with food inflation accounting for 50 percent.
The World Bank said the country’s chronic, high inflation has worsened since 2020, eroding the purchasing power of Nigerians, and increasing poverty.
In its latest development update report, the international organisation added that as many as five million Nigerians have been pushed into poverty as a result of accelerating inflation in 2022.
“We estimate that between 2020 and 2021, inflation pushed about eight million more Nigerians below the poverty line, increasing the total number of poor people to about 90 million,” it said.
Apart from rising inflation, stagnant incomes, and poor remuneration have seen Nigeria experiencing its worst wave of emigration in years.
Last year, the number of Nigerian registered doctors in the UK grew by 82 percent to 10,660 in 2022 from 5,856 in 2018, according to the General Medical Council.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said the number of registered nurses fell by 1,404.5 percent to 1,670 in April to September this year from 111 in the same period of 2018.
The Nigeria Medical Association in October complained that at least 50 doctors leave Nigeria every week to work abroad. “Poor working conditions, coupled with bad pay and the rising cost of living are the main factors.”
Steve Ahubelem, medical officer at General Hospital – Ibeju-Lekki, said the recruitment requirements are lower for nurses in the UK. “If you don’t put value in something, people will leave.”
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Doctors and nurses are critical in any healthcare system. But the growing migration could pose negative consequences for Nigeria’s struggling health sector which is currently dealing with insufficient experienced and skilled workers to cater for its expanding population.
“When they are less, it will affect the system because many quack people will enter the profession, “Okechukwu Ekemezie, a Lagos-based medical doctor.
Over the past few years, the UK has been aggressive in attracting young and vibrant talents to its economy through flexible immigration systems and routes due to its withdrawal from Brexit.
For Nigeria, its large, cheap labour and intelligent minds make the country an attractive destination. Some of the routes introduced so far are the Graduate route, High Potential Individual visa, Global talent visa, and Scale-up visa.