A total of 18,224 Nigerian health and care workers were granted visas by the United Kingdom in one year, according to new official data from the British government.
The number of Nigerians under the health and care category of the skilled work visa rose by 215 percent (18,224) to 26,715 in the year ending September 2023 from 8,491 in the year ending 2022.
Nigeria records largest percentage increase
Africa’s biggest economy recorded the largest percentage increase (215 percent) behind Zimbabwe (169 percent) and India (76 percent), according to the data.
In terms of dependents granted health and care work visas, Nigeria’s number grew by 329 percent from 10,533 to 45,203.
The rise in the number of healthcare workers migrating to the UK can be attributed to the cheap and easy entry migration requirements of the country, which is facing severe shortage of healthcare workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say.
The staff shortage has been front and centre for the UK’s successive governments, making the country a net importer of healthcare professionals.
In 2020, the Conservative government pledged to increase nurse numbers by 50,000 over the next five years, and offered additional cost of living support of £5,000. In that year, the country announced a health and care visa policy, which aims to make it cheaper, quicker and easier for healthcare professionals to migrate to the UK.
Africa’s most populated nation has in recent years seen a mass exodus of talent, popularly called ‘japa’ (a Yoruba word for “run quickly”), which has led to the dearth of skilled workers in the health sector.
High poverty, unemployment, poor human capital development, insecurity and poor education are some of the major reasons many Nigerians are leaving the country in search of greener pastures.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the country’s inflation, which measures the rate of increase of commodity prices, quickened to an 18-year high of 27.33 percent in October.
Last year, the NBS put the number of Nigerians living in multidimensional poverty at 133 million, compared to 82.9 million considered poor in 2019 by national standards.
“The ‘japa’ wave will increase because countries are restrategising and diversifying their efforts into bringing more people to fill in the employment gaps that have been caused by the Great Resignation in Europe, flexible working, COVID-19 and every other economic strain,” Jennifer Oyelade, director of Transquisite Consulting, said.
She said the countries are aware that they can get cheaper labour from Africa, especially Nigeria.
A recent survey by Phillips Consulting Limited (pcl) revealed that more than half of Nigerian highly skilled employees plan to quit their jobs and relocate abroad in the next one year and that the top reasons why they plan to move to another country are better job opportunities, insecurity challenges and higher education.
“Most of those surveyed plan to relocate to Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These countries are relying on immigration to help offset the effects of an ageing workforce due to the Baby Boomer generation retiring,” it said.
Rob Taiwo, managing director at pcl, noted that the quest for a better life should not be surprising as personal well-being is integral to employees’ positive and negative emotions about their job.
“Since the pandemic, satisfaction, happiness, eudemonia and a sense of employee purpose have deteriorated, whilst anxiety has increased. In essence, our work environment fundamentally dictates our self-worth and image,” he said.
The survey also highlighted that most of the professionals who plan to migrate are millennials as they possess distinct traits, such as being tech-savvy and innovative, that differentiate them from other generations. “These qualities can potentially revolutionise and transform organisations and society as a whole.”
It said millennials currently make up the most significant portion of the workforce and that their departure from the country could significantly impact various industries.