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Physicians Are Leaving Iran En Masse, Statistics Show

December 12, 2023

The number of doctors who leave Iran to work in richer countries dwarfs the number of incoming doctors by 30% annually, an Iran Open Data analysis of publicly available figures shows. 

While there is no official statistic available about the emigration of doctors from Iran, reports from some media outlets indicate its rapid increase.

The Farhikhtegan newspaper reported in June on the migration of 6,500 physicians, including 2,300 specialists in 2022. This figure is 30% higher than the average incoming doctors to Iran.

Based on Medical Council Organization statistics, an average of 4,982 doctors have been added to its membership annually between 2012 and 2022. In other words, the annual average number of doctors entering the job market is less than 5,000. 

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Separately, a review of Statistical Center of Iran data indicates that the number of junior doctors at medical schools and university hospitals decreased to around a thousand during the COVID-19 pandemic. On average, more than 1,500 doctors were added annually to the number of doctors in medical institutions between the 2017 to 2021.
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Data collected by the Migration Observatory of Iran from reliable international sources indicates an increase in the number of Iranian doctors in developed countries. Over the past decade, the number of Iranian doctors employed in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries has more than doubled, increasing from about 4,000 doctors to over 10,000 doctors.
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Many Iranian doctors who emigrate do not engage in specialized work immediately. The process of obtaining a medical license is a time-consuming procedure that sometimes takes several years. Therefore, the actual rate of emigration by Iranian doctors is probably much higher.

Iran Migration Observatory surveys from the summer of 2022 indicate that 54% of doctors and nurses showed a strong or very strong desire to leave Iran. 24% said they had decided to emigrate, and 7.5% said they had taken concrete steps to emigrate.
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This survey was conducted before the killing of Mahsa Jina Amini. It can be expected that, following the crackdown on 2022 protests, the desire to emigrate among various segments of the population, including doctors, may have increased.