Internationally, policies for attracting highly-skilled migrants have become the guidelines mainly used by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. Governments are implementing specific procedures to capture and facilitate their mobility. However, all professions are not equal when it comes to welcoming highly-skilled migrants. The medical profession, as a protective market, is one of these. Taking the case of non-EU/EEA doctors in France, this paper shows that the medical profession defined as the closed labour market, remains the most controversial in terms of professional integration of migrants, protectionist barriers to migrant competition and challenge of medical shortage. Based on the path-dependency approach, this paper argues that non-EU/EEA doctors’ issues in France derive from a complex historical process of interaction between standards settled in the past, particularly the historical power of medical corporatism, the unexpected long-term effects of French hospital reforms of 1958, and budgetary pressures.
Theoretically, this paper shows two significant findings. Firstly, the French medical system has undergone a series of transformations unthinkable in the strict sense of a path-dependence approach: an opening of the medical profession to foreign physicians in the context of the Europeanisation of public policy, acceptance of non-EU/EEA doctors in a context of medical shortage and budgetary pressures. Secondly, there is no change of the overall paradigm: significantly, the recruitment policies of non-EU/EEA doctors continue to highlight the imprint of the past and reveal a significant persistence of prejudices. Non-EU/EEA doctors are not considered legitimate doctors even if they have the qualifications of physicians which are legitimate in their country and which can be recognised in other receiving countries.