The purpose of this paper is to examine what is known about the nurse workforce and nursing education in China in order to assess the likely potential for nurse migration from China in the future.
There is a severe shortage of nurses in China (only one nurse per thousand in population), but at the same time there is a very high level of unemployment and underemployment of nurses. China's nursing education system is huge in size (about 500,000 nursing students in 2005), but weak in quality and career development.
As a result of lack of limited job opportunities, low salary, and low job satisfaction, many talented Chinese nurses intend to switch occupation or work outside China. Commercial recruiters have expressed a strong interest in recruitment of nurses in China, but to date there are few examples of successful ventures. Even if the Chinese government were to implement health care financing reforms that led to an increase in nursing jobs and improved work conditions, some level of surplus will remain. As such, it is likely that China will become an important source of nurses for developed nations in the coming years.