The socioeconomic impact of rural-origin graduates working as healthcare professionals in South Africa

  • R G McGregor Umthombo Youth Development Foundation
  • A J Ross University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • G Zihindula Umthombo Youth Development Foundation
Keywords: education, HCPs, rural areas, socioeconomic impact, South Africa, Umthombo Youth Development Foundation, youth


Background: Studies documenting the socioeconomic impact of education leading to employment of rural youth, specifically in the healthcare professions, are lacking. The Umthombo Youth Development Foundation (UYDF) is an NGO that provides financial support for rural students to train as healthcare professionals (HCPs) as a way of addressing staff shortages at rural hospitals. The aim of this study was to understand the social and economic impact on individuals and their families of qualifying as an HCP and being employed at a rural district hospital.

Methodology: A mixed methodology was used to collect data from 40 graduates at eight district hospitals in rural KwaZulu-Natal province. The research tools had qualitative and quantitative questions, with additional data being extracted from the UYDF database. The qualitative data were analysed thematically, with STATA software being used for the quantitative analysis. 

Results: The findings indicate that graduate household assets increased significantly, as did their socioeconomic circumstances, compared with before they qualified as HCPs. Graduates attached high value to education that led to their employment, which provided them with money to afford assets. Having a permanent job and regular income also transformed their families’ lives, as they were able to care for their siblings and extended family members.

Conclusions: Training rural youth for employment in scarce skills that leads to employment, such as a career in the health sciences, boosts their socioeconomic circumstances and that of their families. This contributes to the staffing of rural hospitals, job creation and the economic development of the country.

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Author Biographies

R G McGregor, Umthombo Youth Development Foundation

Umthombo Youth Development Foundation, Hillcrest, Durban, South Africa

A J Ross, University of KwaZulu-Natal

College of Health Sciences Discipline of Family Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

G Zihindula, Umthombo Youth Development Foundation

Umthombo Youth Development Foundation, Hillcrest, Durban, South Africa

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