Physician shortages in rural Vietnam: using a labor market approach to inform policy

Marko Vujicic, Bakhuti Shengelia, Marco Alfano, Ha Bui Thu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


This paper investigates labor market dynamics for physicians in Vietnam, paying particular attention to geographic distribution and dual job holding. The analysis is based on a survey of a random sample of physicians in 3 regions in 2009–10. We found that the labor market for physicians in Vietnam is characterized by very little movement among both facility levels and geographic areas. Dual practice is also prominent, with over one-third of physicians holding a second job. After taking account of the various sources of income for physicians and controlling for key factors, there is a significant wage premium associated with locating in an urban area. This premium is driven by much higher earnings from dual job holding rather than official earnings in the primary job. There are important policy implications that emerge. With such low job turnover rates, policies to increase the number of physicians in rural areas could focus on initial recruitment. Once in place, physicians tend to remain in their jobs for a very long time. Lastly, findings from an innovative discrete choice experiment suggest that providing long-term education and improving equipment are the most effective instruments to recruit physicians to work in rural areas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)970 - 977
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2011


  • human resources for health
  • Vietnam
  • labour market
  • discrete choice experiment
  • physician shortage


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