Projecting shortages and surpluses of doctors and nurses in the OECD: what looms ahead

Health Econ Policy Law. 2019 Apr;14(2):274-290. doi: 10.1017/S174413311700055X. Epub 2018 Jan 23.


There is little debate that the health workforce is a key component of the health care system. Since the training of doctors and nurses takes several years, and the building of new schools even longer, projections are needed to allow for the development of health workforce policies. Our work develops a projection model for the demand of doctors and nurses by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in the year 2030. The model is based on a country's demand for health services, which includes the following factors: per capita income, out-of-pocket health expenditures and the ageing of its population. The supply of doctors and nurses is projected using country-specific autoregressive integrated moving average models. Our work shows how dramatic imbalances in the number of doctors and nurses will be in OECD countries should current trends continue. For each country in the OECD with sufficient data, we report its demand, supply and shortage or surplus of doctors and nurses for 2030. We project a shortage of nearly 400,000 doctors across 32 OECD countries and shortage of nearly 2.5 million nurses across 23 OECD countries in 2030. We discuss the results and suggest policies that address the shortages.

MeSH terms

  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Workforce / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Workforce / trends*
  • Humans
  • Nurses / statistics & numerical data
  • Nurses / supply & distribution*
  • Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development*
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data
  • Physicians / supply & distribution*