Background: Migration and remittances are of considerable importance in the small Pacific island states. There has been a significant migration of skilled health workers in recent decades to metropolitan fringe states, including Australia and New Zealand. This paper reports the findings of a re-analysis of survey of Samoan and Tongan migrants in Australia where the sample is split between nurse households and others.
Methods: The study analyzes the survey data with a view to comparing the remittance behaviour and determinants of remittances for nurses and other migrant households, using both descriptive, cross-tabulations and appropriate econometric methods.
Results: It is found that a significantly higher proportion of nurse households sent remittances home, and, on average remitted more. Remittances of nurse households did not decline significantly over time contrary to what has generally been predicted. This was in contrast to other migrant households in the sample, for whom remittances showed a sharp decline after 15 years absence. Remittances contribute much more to the income of migrant sending countries, than the cost of the additional human capital in nurse training.
Conclusions: Given the shortage of nurses in Australia and New Zealand, and therefore the high demand for immigrant nurses, investment by Pacific island governments and families in nurse training constitutes a rational use of economic resources. Policies encouraging investment in home countries may be more effective than policies directly discouraging brain drain in contributing to national development.