Migrant health worker deaths during Covid-19: a methodological exploration and initial estimates

Tipping, Sarah; Murphy, Victoria; Yeates, Nicola; Montoro, Carlos; Ismail, Gihan and Ismail, Nashwa (2022). Migrant health worker deaths during Covid-19: a methodological exploration and initial estimates. The Open University-Public Services International, Milton Keynes/Ferney Voltaire.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00014b4b


Migrants comprise a significant proportion of health workforces that have long been recognised as being at high risk of experiencing adverse outcomes from contracting Covid-19. However, there is a paucity of high-quality research data on the risks of such outcomes faced by migrant health workers compared with non-migrant workers. This paper explores the available data around Covid-19 deaths, health workers, and migration and develops a methodology to estimate how many migrant health workers died due to Covid-19. It presents preliminary assessments of the numbers of such workers based on statistical data from four trial countries chosen for their differences in terms of proportions of foreign-born health workers and development contexts – India, Mexico, Nigeria and the UK. We identify the age-sex standardised approach as the best-available one for this enumerative task. However, the paper identifies the lack of robust data needed to confidently quantify the relative differences in risk of death faced by migrant health workers compared with their non-migrant colleagues. We reaffirm the World Health Organization’s advocacy of standardised measurement and reporting of Covid-19 impacts, and, on the basis of this research, extend its recommendations to improve data on the health workforce to enable disaggregation by sex, age, ethnicity, occupation, health status, migration status, country of origin and whether employed in public or private health care delivery, and to institute better data systems with greater capacity for collecting and analysing disaggregated data. Such advances would go a long way to redressing the near-invisibility of migrant health workers (and migrants more generally) in Covid-19 impact studies and to improving their working conditions.

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