Countries Where Doctors Get Paid the Least

countries where physicians have the lowest salaries
In some countries, physicians make less than $800/year

According to the 2015 Medscape Physician Compensation Report, many U.S. physicians believe they are not fairly compensated for their work.  Less than half of the American ophthalmologists and general surgeons surveyed believe they are fairly compensated for their work and sacrifice.

One of the most common questions from medical professionals concerned about their compensation is, “What do medical jobs pay in other parts of the world?”  It is a simple question on the surface, but calculating real incomes can be complex.

There are many factors that must be included when calculating physicians’ real incomes all around the world including:

  • Varying cost of living between countries
  • Differences in tax rates between countries
  • Differences in overhead for various medical field jobs
  • Different medical field jobs have different pay rates in each country
  • Different demand for medical jobs in each country
  • Different forms of remuneration for different specialties and medical practices


OECD Countries

It’s worth examining the pay rates of physicians within the OECD countries separately because these countries all have advanced medical systems.   OECD stands for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.  It is an international economic organization that has 34 member countries, including the United States.

It should come as no surprise that the highest paid physicians in the world are from the Netherlands and the United States.  The relatively high cost of medical services in the United States drives physician salaries.  Be forewarned: if you are from the United States or the Netherlands, the lowest rates of pay that doctors receive may come as a shock to you!


Physicians with the Lowest Incomes — Relative Remuneration

One useful comparison when evaluating physicians’ incomes is looking at how much they are paid relative to other people in the economy.  In the OECD, general practitioners are paid the least in the following countries:

  • Hungary (1.4 times the average wage)
  • Estonia (1.7 times the average wage)
  • Australia (1.7 times the average wage)
  • Netherlands (1.7 times the average wage)
  • Finland (1.8 times the average wage)
  • Slovakia (1.9 times the average wage)

Source: P9. 2011 Figures.

Specialists in the OECD are paid the least in the following countries:

  • Hungary (1.6 times the average wage)
  • Norway (1.8 times the average wage)
  • Slovakia (1.8 times the average wage)
  • Estonia (2.1 times the average wage)
  • Finland/United Kingdom (2.6 times the average wage)

Source: P9. 2011 Figures.

The OECD report points out that even this form of comparison may not be entirely accurate because of different forms of bonuses, practice expenses, and other informal payments.

Physicians in Hungary can earn 10 times less than doctors in other OECD countries.  It is common for well trained physicians to receive only 270,000 HUF or $1,000 per month in Hungary (Lestyánszky, 2015).

Other medical jobs in Hungary also have a relatively low salary including nurses and health administrators.  Health workers can earn as little as 141,000 HUF or $520 per month (Lestyánszky, 2015).

In terms of all European countries (including those not in the OECD), the only countries that may have a lower wage for doctors are Romania and Bulgaria (MEDLINES – Medical Headlines, 2013).


Lowest Paid Doctors in the World

In many countries, physicians earn less than people in occupations that require less training and qualifications.  In those countries, physicians are often regarded as public servants who do not need require high levels of compensation.

It should be no surprise that developing nations pay their physicians the least.  In many areas of China, for example, doctors are paid about 2,524 Yuan–$406 a month (, 2015).  To give that some perspective, a hotel receptionist in China can earn 2,507 Yuan, or about $403 USD per month.

Another country with extremely low salaries for doctors is Egypt.  When physicians went on strike in 2011, they were earning $46 a month when working in a public hospital (Yahoo News, 2015).  Doctors in Egypt have made some ground since then, but are still paid very poorly compared to physicians in the rest of the world.

Cuba pays physicians even less.  The country also has one of the highest numbers of physicians (per capita) in the world (, 2015).  Cuba has been training thousands of doctors every year for many decades and leads the world with the lowest patient to doctor ratio, 155:1, while the U.S. trails way behind at 396:1 (Souers, 2012).  With a surplus of Cuban doctors, Cuba may feel less incentive or ability to pay physicians too much.  Just a few years ago, Cuban doctors received an estimated wage of between $30 and $50 per month (Newman, 2012)—arguably the lowest paid doctors in the world.  However, the climate in Cuba is changing for doctors.   A year ago, the most qualified Cuban physicians (with two specialties) were able to earn up to $67 per month (Associated Press, 2014).

It is always eye-opening and humbling to look at these figures.  What could you ever afford with an income of $67 per month in the United States?

Pablo Horteg–Staff Writer for–America’s #1 Site for Medical Jobs + Practice Resources


Associated Press (2014). Cuba hikes salaries for doctors, nurses to as much as $67 a month. Retrieved 12 July 2015, from

Bennetts, R. (2011). Remuneration of doctors and nurses: Progress and next steps (1st ed.). OECD. Retrieved 5 July 2015, from,. (2015). Top 10 lowest paying jobs for Chinese graduates 2013 – Retrieved 5 July 2015, from,. (2015). Physicians (per 1,000 people) | Data | Table. Retrieved 10 July 2015, from

Lestyánszky, Á. (2015). Hungarian health care workers earn 1/10th that of their western counterparts – The Budapest Beacon. The Budapest Beacon. Retrieved 5 July 2015, from

MEDLINES – Medical Headlines,. (2013). Medical salaries in Europe. Retrieved 5 July 2015, from

Newman, L. (2012). The truths and tales of Cuban healthcare. Retrieved 5 July 2015, from

Souers, J.M. (2012).  Cuba leads the world in lowest patient per doctor ratio; How do they do it? Retrieved 12 July 2015, from

Yahoo News,. (2015). Egypt doctors strike for better wages, services. Retrieved 5 July 2015, from


8 thoughts on “Countries Where Doctors Get Paid the Least

  1. I am a junior general practitioner from Ethiopia. The average junior GP earns less than 150 usd per month. Currently, there is a nationwide physician’s strike on the process, demanding better pay, working conditions, including security, and the issuance of medical liscence and degree certificate upon graduation.

  2. I am a general practitioner (Mbbs) in Kathmamdu working for a government institution where I earn ~300 Usd. The maximum one can earn going to the remotest of places will earn a mere 600 USD despite all the extra allowances and stipends.
    If you work as a Doctor of the Armed Forces, you don’t even get night duty allowances or other travel allowances but you still need to be on standby 24/7.

  3. I am from a third world country. I am a general practitioner and I make $700 a month working 8 hours a day. In my country the pharmacies offer free medical consult with the objective of selling more medicines. Studying medicine here is very easy and the excess of doctors is damaging the carreer payment. Things appear to be worst in the neartime so to “survive” it is almost a priority to be a specialist. Their income is good yet.

  4. Did anyone take into account the fact that at the higher levels business people, academics, even politicians in other countries do not make as much as in the US? The US has an income distribution which allows for much higher income than elsewhere. Relative to this, US doctors appear lower on the scale of business executives than in other Western countries, and when you allow for the fact that others have virtually no student debt (nor do other educated people in Western countries excluding the US), and do not have to pay high health insurance premiums – (yes, doctors pay those too), I suspect that they are quite well off indeed – and it is nothing to do with “socialized” medicine, usage of which term advertises ignorance of how the systems work (in various ways).

  5. Seems to me that its unreasonable to ask a congress to make right a health care system they themselves don’t have to deal with from a cost perspective. When did we grant Congressman free health care and while we are at it, full pension benefit in retirement? Perhaps if they lived in the world of their constituents, they would think and act more in our best interests.

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