”The Dilution of the Medical Profession with Foreign Elements”. The Swedish Medical Association’s Arguments Against the 1950 Recruitment of Austrian Physicians


  • Olle Jansson




migration, physicians, professionalism, medical associations, migration policies


This article studies the arguments put forth by the Swedish Medical Association (Sveriges läkarförbund, SLF) against government plans presented in 1950 to recruit physicians from Austria, and the aim is to describe and analyse the arguments made by the SLF in opposition to these plans. The arguments are gathered from the SLF archives and the organisation’s weekly paper Svensk Läkartidning. The analysis is based on the theoretical perspective that organisations representing professionals use different strategies and methods, and hence different arguments, against migrants compared to labour unions representing blue-collar workers. The key theoretical terms here are social closure and credentialism. A key strategy adopted by organisations representing professionals in order to reduce competition in their segment of the market is to close off the occupation for those lacking the necessary credentials to gain the right to practice.

The study finds that the SLF in many regards did pursue such a nationalist professional strategy based on social closure against foreign physicians. According to the SLF, only those with a deeper understanding of the Swedish language and society, as well as a medical degree from a Swedish university, had the proper credentials to work as a physician in the country. On top of this, the association also presented other, more common union arguments, such as greatly exaggerating the shortage of physicians in Sweden. The SLF argued for pursuing other venues in order to solve these problems, such as streamlining hospital work and training more nurses.

In the end, the SLF was not successful. A drawback of a professional strategy is that it often relies on government regulations to help the profession establish a monopoly. When the goals and ambitions of the SLF differed from that of the state, the National Swedish Board of Health started making suggestions to lower the bar for acceptance into the medical profession. In anticipation of this, the SLF started advocating for accepting physicians from the Nordic countries, as they were closer to the association’s ideal of what a proper Swedish physician was and ought to be.