What Are Destination Markets Doing to Fill Their Need for Health Care Workers?

The World Health Organization estimates that, by 2030, the world will experience a shortage of 15 million health workers. Sector vacancies are growing, while falling unemployment rates mean there are fewer people available to fill the gaps.12 This means that countries are competing with one another to attract and retain new talent from around the globe, including offering financial incentives and easier pathways to permanent residency.

Post-study employment opportunities remain one of the biggest concerns students express when beginning their study abroad journey. Because the global demand for health care workers is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade, today we’re looking at what each major destination market is doing to attract and retain skilled individuals in the field.

Key Insights at a Glance

  • Canada’s need for health care workers is up 287% in 2022 compared to 2015.3
  • The US reported nearly two million sector vacancies in July 2022.4
  • The UK’s need for sector workers grew 27% in 2022 compared to the previous year.5
  • Australia’s near-70,000 vacancies in May 2022 was up 131% compared to 2019.6

Gaps in Canada’s Health Care and Social Assistance Workforce

In Q2 2022, Canada reported nearly 140,000 vacancies in the health care and social assistance sector:

Canada’s need for workers in the health care and social assistance sector has grown by 287% since 2015. That’s nearly four times the number of vacancies over a mere seven years.

Newcomers to Canada have historically been important to the sustainability and effectiveness of the Canadian health care system. According to the 2016 census, immigrants accounted for one out every four workers in the sector.7 This included 23% of registered nurses, 36% of physicians, 37% of pharmacists, and 39% of dentists. So what policies have been recently implemented in Canada to attract newcomers that might also appeal to international students?

In June, the federal government announced a $1.5 million investment to help foreign-trained health care workers get their credentials recognized. Provinces in Canada are also doing their part to attract more health care workers. There are several Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) across Canada, with many dedicated to health care professionals. And, earlier this month, Ontario’s minister of health permitted the province’s nursing college to make regulatory changes that could get thousands more internationally trained nurses into practice more quickly.

In short, branches of government across Canada are committed to filling the skills gap in the health care sector. There’s a historic need for workers that isn’t going away, and international students can help fill that need.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information has a wealth of resources about medical professions in Canada.

Gaps in The US’s Health Care and Social Assistance Workforce

The United States reported nearly two million vacancies in health care and social assistance in July 2022. The following chart shows the vacancy rate within the sector since 2010:

The vacancy rate—the number of job vacancies expressed as a percentage of labour demand—reached nearly 9% in July 2022, a new high. This rate is more than double the vacancy rate from 2014. There were over 1.9 million total vacancies in July 2022, an increase of 15% compared to the previous year.

In August, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced an investment of nearly $60 million toward growing the health workforce.8 This came on the heels of 2021’s $100 million investment toward strengthening rural health care and attracting more workers.9 And these are only a couple of recent investments made specifically for growing the workforce. The US government’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 invested a massive $1.9 trillion into the industry.10

Learn more about the US’s expansion of OPT rights.

Gaps in The UK’s Health Care and Social Assistance Workforce

The UK reported 219,000 job vacancies in the human health and social work field in August 2022:

The UK’s need for workers in the sector grew 27% in 2022 compared to the previous year. Also, the 219,000 vacancies in 2022 was 100,000 more than 2017, a growth of 84%. The Health Foundation found that, for England alone, the workforce gap will require 488,000 extra health care staff and 627,000 extra social care staff by 2030/31.11

In April, the Department of Health and Social Care announced that £500 million from the Health and Social Care Levy will go toward improving recruitment, retention, progression, and staff wellbeing for the sector. Also, there are currently 15 health and education occupations listed for the UK’s Skilled Worker visa.

The introduction of the Graduate Route helped the UK reach its 2030 international enrollment target nine years ahead of schedule.

Gaps in Australia’s Health Care and Social Assistance Workforce

Australia reported nearly 70,000 job vacancies in its health care and social assistance sector for May 2022:

The near-70,000 vacancies in May 2022 was up 131% compared to 2019. And those 2019 numbers were already an increase of 125% over 2015. More than one in four organizations within this sector reported a need for workers in May 2022. And that need is only expected to grow—within the next five years, Australia is expected to require 250,000 more skilled health and social care workers.12

The Stronger Rural Health Strategy is a 10-year strategy, started in 2018/19, which aims to deliver 3,000 extra doctors and 3,000 extra nurses across the country by teaching, training, recruiting, and retaining health professionals. And Australia’s states and territories are doing their part to attract workers as well. For example, Victoria announced a one-off Healthcare Worker Winter Retention and Surge Payment, and is also offering financial supports for health professionals relocating to Victoria.

Australia recently extended post-study work rights for international students. Qualifying courses have yet to be announced, but will address current sector skill gaps.

What The Global Need for Health Care Workers Means for International Students

Some of these investments will expire by the time new students graduate. Others may expand or evolve in unexpected ways. But the need for workers in the health care sector is not going away. Multiple agencies have predicted exponential increases in workforce gaps over the next decade. Destination markets will have to compete with one another to secure health care workers.

This means that students just starting their journey in this field should feel confident that not only will a career await them once they’ve graduated, but also that their services will be highly sought after across a variety of markets. Demand for workers should dictate a wealth of opportunities for those trained in the field. With job vacancies in health care showing no signs of slowing down, there’s arguably never been a better time for students to pursue an education within health care.


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About the ApplyInsights Team

Led by ApplyBoard Co-Founder and CMO Meti Basiri, the ApplyInsights Team analyzes the latest government, third-party, and ApplyBoard internal data, to provide a complete picture of trends in the international education industry. They also work with industry experts and ApplyBoard team members to gather local insights across key source and destination countries, where ApplyBoard has helped more than 300,000 students around the world.



1. The Guardian, Australia’s unemployment rate falls to 3.5% – the lowest in almost 50 years. July 2022.

2. CTV News, Canadian economy lost 43K jobs in June, unemployment rate falls to 4.9 per cent. July 2022.

3. Canadian data courtesy of Statistics Canada, adjusted for seasonality.

4. United States data courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, adjusted for seasonality.

5. UK data courtesy of the Office for National Statistics. Data by three-month rolling average as of the June through August months. Not seasonally adjusted.

6. Australian data courtesy of Australian Bureau of Statistics, not seasonally adjusted.

7. Government of Canada, Immigration matters in health care. June 2022.

8. HHS, HHS Invests Nearly $60 Million to Strengthen Health Care Workforce and Improve Access to Care in Rural Communities. August 2022.

9. The Hill, Biden administration to invest $100 million to boost health care, attract workers. October 2021.

10. Health Affairs, Investing In A 21st Century Health Workforce: A Call For Accountability. September 2021.

11. The Health Foundation, Over a million more health and care staff needed in the next decade to meet growing demand for care. October 2021.

12. The Age, Australia urgently needs a health workforce plan. May 2022.


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