Australia’s medical and nursing workforce is growing - but supply still varies regionally

The number of employed medical practitioners and nurses has increased between 2005 and 2009, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Medical labour force 2009, shows that there were 72,739 medical practitioners in the medical workforce in Australia in 2009. This is an increase of 20.7%, on 2005. The comparable growth in the Australian population over this period was 7.6%.

A second report, also released today, Nursing and midwifery labour force 2009, found that there were 276,751 nurses employed in nursing in 2009, up 13% from 2005.

On average, nurses worked 33.3 hours per week, a slight (0.3%) increase on 2005.

‘This at least partially reflects fewer nurses working part-time in 2009,’ said AIHW spokesperson David Braddock.

In contrast to this, the average weekly hours worked by medical practitioners decreased by 3.4% during the same period, from 43.7 hours in 2005 to 42.2 hours in 2009.

Regionally, the supply of both medical practitioners and nurses varied according to remoteness.

‘In Major cities there were 392 full-time equivalent medical practitioners per 100,000 people, while this figure was 206 for Outer regional areas. On the other hand, the opposite trend was found for nurses, with nursing supply ranging from 997 full-time equivalent nurses per 100,000 people in Major cities, to 1,240 in Very remote areas, Mr Braddock said.

The average age of medical practitioners was fairly stable between 2005 and 2009, while the average age of nurses decreased from 45.1 years to 44.3 years. While the average age of nurses was lower, the proportion aged 50 years and over increased slightly in 2009.

Nursing continued to be a female dominated profession, while the medical practitioner labour force comprises a higher proportion of men. However, small shifts towards a greater gender balance are apparent in both workforces.’

‘Women now make up almost 36% of employed medical practitioners (up from just under 33% in 2005), while the proportion of male nurses has increased slightly, from 7.9% in 2005 to 9.6% in 2009.’

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.


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