Lowest Paying Countries For Doctors (Salary Analysis)

Updated on: December 3, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

Some countries, due to their economic conditions or lack of government support, have significantly lower salaries for doctors compared to other nations.

While doctors are still generally far better paid than the average person, the degree to which this is the case can vary greatly between countries.

The reality is there isnโ€™t a huge amount of data available on how much doctors are paid in some of the poorer countries across the globe.

In some of the lowest paying countries for doctors there generally isnโ€™t great reporting or data available to be able to fully compare different nations.

However, in this article, Iโ€™ve compiled a few of the countries that potentially offer the lowest remuneration for medical professionals and discuss some of the factors contributing to this situation.

Egypt

Egypt, a North African country, is known for its rich history and cultural heritage.

However, its healthcare system has been facing numerous challenges, including a severe shortage of medical professionals and inadequate infrastructure.

One of the primary reasons for this is the low salaries that doctors in Egypt receive, making the country one of the lowest-paying nations for medical professionals worldwide.

The public healthcare system in Egypt is underfunded and understaffed, which has led to subpar working conditions for doctors and other medical staff.

Public hospital doctors in Egypt were earning as low as $46 a month in 2011, which has slightly improved since then but still lags far behind the salaries of physicians in higher paying parts of the world.

Egypt is one of the lowest paying countries for doctors

This financial hardship often forces them to take on second jobs to provide for their families, resulting in less time and dedication towards their primary profession of practising medicine.

There are several reasons for the low pay offered to doctors in Egypt.

These factors include inadequate government funding for the public healthcare system, an outdated salary scale that does not reflect the increasing cost of living, and a lack of political will to prioritise the improvement and modernisation of the healthcare sector.

Consequently, many doctors choose to leave Egypt in search of better job opportunities and higher salaries abroad, leading to a significant “brain drain” in the medical field.

Cuba

Cuba, an island nation in the Caribbean, is well-known for its socialist system and its strong focus on healthcare.

The country has been training thousands of doctors every year for many decades, leading the world with the lowest patient-to-doctor ratio of 155:1.

As a result, Cuba has a glut of doctors, and its specialist physicians are among the lowest-paid in the world.

The Cuban healthcare system is built on the principles of universal access and preventive care. It boasts a genuinely extensive network of hospitals, clinics and family doctors, ensuring that healthcare is accessible to all citizens.

Despite being a low-income country, Cuba has managed to achieve impressive health outcomes, often on par with those of high-income countries.

In terms of doctor salaries, Cuba stands out as an extreme case, with specialist physicians receiving an average annual salary of just $804 (ยฃ617) in 2014.

Lowest Paying Countries For Doctors Pixel Infographic

The low wages are partly attributed to the surplus of Cuban doctors, which makes it less incentivising for the country to pay physicians too much.

It is worth noting that Cuba is not averse to sending its doctors abroad for mission work or other duties.

In fact, the export of Cuban doctors to countries in need of medical assistance has become a significant source of income for the Cuban government.

However, these doctors are still paid a fraction of what their host country counterparts receive, which has been a source of concern for human rights organisations and local medical professionals alike.

Madagascar

Madagascar, an island nation located in the Indian Ocean, faces numerous healthcare challenges.

The country’s healthcare system is strained due to limited resources, a shortage of trained medical professionals, and an overall low investment in healthcare infrastructure.

This has contributed to Madagascar being one of the lowest-paying countries for doctors.

In Madagascar, the healthcare system is characterised by a lack of accessibility and affordability for much of the population.

The limited number of hospitals and medical centres are predominantly situated in urban areas, particularly in the capital, Antananarivo.

This has contributed to the insufficient healthcare coverage for the majority of rural inhabitants.

Additionally, the high cost of medical care relative to the average Malagasy income further exacerbates the struggle for equitable healthcare access.

Pakistan

Pakistan is a developing South Asian country with a population of over 230 million people.

The country’s healthcare system is a mix of public and private services, catering to various socio-economic sectors.

The healthcare facilities range from basic rural health units to tertiary care hospitals in urban centres.

However, one of the contributing factors to it being one of the lowest-paying countries for doctors is the underfunded public healthcare system, resulting in inadequate remuneration and scarce training opportunities.

Over the years, a significant number of Pakistani doctors have sought medical careers abroad, driven by better job prospects and facilities.

As per a 2014 PubMed study, there are around 175,600 registered doctors in Pakistan, but limited data is available about how many pursue medical careers abroad.

Despite the brain drain, the country is still facing a shortage of doctors, with a ratio of not more than one doctor for every 1,000 people.

Furthermore, the recent de-recognition of Pakistani medical degrees in some countries, like Saudi Arabia, has created uncertainty in the medical profession that could potentially further decrease the already meagre compensation for doctors in the country.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a landlocked country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with a diverse culture and rich history.

The healthcare system in Ethiopia faces numerous challenges, including a shortage of skilled healthcare professionals, inadequate infrastructure, and limited resources.

These factors contribute to Ethiopia being one of the lowest-paying countries for doctors.

The Ethiopian government has been working to improve the healthcare system by training more healthcare professionals, constructing and upgrading healthcare facilities, and implementing policies that prioritise public health.

Despite these efforts, the salaries for doctors in Ethiopia remain quite low compared to other countries.

The average monthly salary for a doctor in Ethiopia was approximately $300 per month in allowances in 2008.

Ethiopia is a low paying country for doctors due to several factors

There are several factors contributing to the low salaries for doctors in Ethiopia. One major factor is the country’s economic situation, characterised by high inflation and low per capita income.

This economic reality makes it challenging for the government to allocate sufficient funds to the healthcare sector.

Another factor is the high demand for healthcare services and the relatively low supply of qualified doctors.

Ethiopia has a low ratio of physicians per population, with doctors being responsible for large numbers of patients.

This results in long working hours for doctors, high patient loads, and increased work-related stress.

Professional development opportunities and the overall work environment in Ethiopia also contribute to doctors’ dissatisfaction with their salaries.

Limited access to continuous medical education, inadequate resources, and poor management practices reduce doctors’ motivation to work in the public healthcare system, leading some to seek job opportunities in the private sector or abroad.

China

China is a country with a vast population and is known for its rapid economic development.

However, its healthcare system is still struggling to cope with the needs of its people. One of the key factors contributing to this is the low salaries of doctors in some areas of China.

The payment method for doctors in the country mainly consists of a mixed mode of pay by disease, total insurance payment, and pay-per-service.

This system often results in lower earnings for medical professionals, as it does not directly correlate to their workload and expertise.

Additionally, there is a significant disparity in salaries amongst doctors in various regions and types of hospitals, which further contributes to the issue.

The country faces a shortage of medical professionals; it needs an additional 700,000 doctors to meet the healthcare demands of its citizens, particularly the 400 million chronic disease patients whose treatment accounts for 70% of total healthcare resources.

This shortage has resulted in an increased workload for existing doctors, lower levels of job satisfaction, and a contributing factor to the lower salaries for Chinese physicians.

Sudan

The healthcare system in Sudan faces serious challenges, such as inadequate infrastructure, insufficient funding, and a lack of skilled healthcare professionals.

One of the main reasons why Sudan ranks as one of the lowest-paying countries for doctors is the nation’s struggling economy.

Political instability and conflict have also contributed to the underfunding of the healthcare sector. As a result, many hospitals and clinics struggle to provide adequate medical services and supplies to patients.

The limited availability of healthcare facilities contributes to the dismal state of the sector.

With only 1.6 primary healthcare facilities per 10,000 people, access to healthcare is severely limited for the majority of the population.

Moreover, the lack of incentive and skill-based pay systems leads to low morale amongst healthcare professionals, further exacerbating the problem.

Although the exact salaries of doctors in Sudan are not readily available, it’s evident that they face various challenges and low remuneration in their profession.

Many skilled Sudanese doctors opt for better opportunities abroad and sadly this brain drain only serves to worsen an already struggling healthcare system in Sudan.

Factors That Can Lead To Low Pay For Doctors

Economic conditions play a significant role in determining the pay scale for doctors in any given country.

Developing countries or those with less robust economies may not have the financial capacity to provide competitive wages for their medical professionals.

This often results in lower remuneration for doctors across the board, impacting both general practitioners and specialists alike.

Healthcare expenditure also influences the salaries of doctors.

Countries with limited resources allocated to healthcare may struggle to provide adequate pay for their medical professionals.

Budgetary constraints may lead to hiring fewer doctors, more limited access to essential equipment and facilities, and ultimately lower wages for those employed in the medical field.

Besides all this, the supply and demand for medical professionals in a country can impact doctorsโ€™ pay.

A surplus of doctors trained in a particular specialty may lead to increased competition, resulting in lower wages for these professionals.

On the other hand, countries facing shortages of general practitioners or specific specialists might offer higher incentives and remuneration to attract and retain the necessary medical experts.

Final Thoughts

Generally, the poorer the country the worse paid their doctors will be.

However, you can also consider a doctorโ€™s pay in comparison to the average salary of the country- thus seeing in relative terms how much a doctor is valued.

While these countries may not be the definitive 7 lowest paying countries for doctors, they all certainly are nations in which doctors deserve to be paid more.

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.