AIHW Board AIHW senior staff Annual report Capability statement Collaboration Customer care charter FOI - freedom of information Indexed list of files Conferences & events Organisation chart Presentations Privacy of data Public consultation Strategic Directions 2011-2014 Tenders
By category Ageing, disability & carers Families & children Hospitals Housing & homelessness Indigenous Australians Population groups Risk factors, diseases & death Services, workforce & spending
By subjectAdoptions Aged care Ageing Alcohol & other drugs Arthritis & musculoskeletal conditions Asthma Australia's health Australia's welfare Burden of disease Cancer Cardiovascular health Child health, development & wellbeing Child protection Children's services Chronic diseases
Chronic kidney disease Chronic respiratory conditions Deaths Dementia Dental & oral health Diabetes Disability Expenditure Eye health Food & nutrition Health indicators Homelessness Hospitals Housing assistance Indigenous Australians Injury Life expectancy
Male health Mental health Mothers & babies National health priority areas Overweight & obesity Palliative care Population health Prisoner health Risk factors Rural health Safety & quality of health care Veterans' health Workforce Youth health & wellbeing Youth justice
In other sections Data Publications Contact AIHW
Publications CatalogueOrdering publicationsForthcoming publicationsRate our publication effectivenessSubscribe to release notices
By subject Adoptions Aged care Ageing Alcohol & other drugs Arthritis & musculoskeletal conditions Asthma Australia's health Australia's welfare Burden of disease Cancer Cardiovascular health Child health, development & wellbeing Child protection Children's services Chronic diseases Chronic kidney disease
Chronic respiratory conditions Corporate publications Data linkage Data standards Deaths Dental & oral health Diabetes Disability Expenditure Eye health Food & nutrition General practice Health indicators Health priority areas Homelessness Hospitals Housing assistance Indigenous Australians Indigenous housing
Injury Life expectancy Male health Mental health Mothers & babies Overweight & obesity Palliative care Population health Prisoner health Risk factors Rural health Safety & quality of health care Veterans' health Workforce Youth health & wellbeing Youth justice
In other sections Subjects Data Contact AIHW
About AIHW data METeOR - metadata online registry Data by subject Catalogue of holdings of AIHW data Data integration Data standards Privacy of data
By subject Aged care Alcohol and other drugs Alcohol data sources Burden of disease Body weight data sources Cancer Children's headline indicators
Chronic disease indicators Deaths Disability Expenditure FHBH - Fixing houses for better health General practice (GP) data Hospitals Height and weight data sources
Indigenous Australians International collaboration Medical indemnity Mental health National indicator catalogue National core maternity indicators Risk factors statistics Tobacco data sources Workforce
In other sections Subjects Publications Contact AIHW
AACR ACFADD AHSAC AIHW Board AIHW Ethics Committee CKDMAC AODTS NMDS WG CMAG CSDWG CVDMAC HEAC HHIMG
IGIHM JJ RIG MHISS MyHospitals NAGATSIHID NCIAG NCSIMG NDDWG NDIMG NHISSC NIAG NIRAPIMG NMDD
NMDS NOPSAD NPDDC NPHEP NPHIC PCDWG PDWG PHIDG PHIG REDWG Workforce committees YIAG
Education worksheets What's in the pipeline Subscribe to education notices Other educational links
Worksheets by subject All Latest Ageing Australia's health Australia's welfare Carers
Children & youth Disability Disease Drugs
Health Health prevention Indigenous Australians Injury
In other sections Subjects Data Publications Contact AIHW
Job vacancies How to apply for a position at the AIHW Conditions of employment Benefits of working for the AIHW Indigenous temporary employment register Temporary employment register Occupational Training Program Contact the People Unit Subscribe to employment notices Graduates
AIHW Access magazine Conferences & events Media releases Subscribe to release notices Media FAQ Media contacts
You are here:
The health labour force in Australia is large and diverse, covering many occupations, ranging from highly qualified professionals to support staff and volunteers. Health occupations comprise workers who diagnose and treat physical and mental illnesses and conditions or recommend, administer, dispense and develop medications and treatment to promote or restore good health.
There are two major sources of data on the Australian health labour force:
The ABS census covers a wider range of professions but is only conducted every 5 years. The AIHW Labour Force Surveys cover medical practitioners and nurses and midwives on an annual basis and collate more detailed information.
This page presents data from the 2006 Census. For more recent information on medical practitioners and nurses and midwives see:
In 2006, 548,384 people were employed in health occupations, comprising 6% of all employed persons in Australia (ABS Census of Population and Housing).
Over the last four decades the health labour force has increased at a much faster rate than population growth, and this growth has been maintained over recent years: between the 2001 and 2006 censuses, the number of people working in health occupations increased by 22.8%, compared with an 6.6% increase in the Australian population.
Source: ABS, Census of Population and Housing, 2001 and 2006 (data available from ABS on request).
One of the major changes in the health labour force is the increasing female participation.
The average age of people employed in health occupations in 2006 was 42 years. This was slightly higher than the average age of people employed outside the health workforce, which was 39 years.
In the health workforce in 2001, 17.1% of male workers were aged 55 years or older and in 2006 this cohort comprised 20.6%. The increase in the proportion of females aged 55 years or older (from 10.1% to 14.6%) was larger than that of males.
The female work pattern of working fewer hours per week than males was evident in the 2006 census data which showed 50.0% of employed females worked less than 35 hours per week, compared with one-fifth of males working in health. The 2001 census presented a similar pattern with 51.3% of females in health occupations employed part time compared to 17.6% for males.
The average week for health workers in 2006 was 35 hours.
The current distribution of the health workforce across Australia does not match the population distribution. Moreover, the geographic distribution of health workers in different occupations is varied. For example, the numbers of medical practitioners per 100,000 population, and most health professionals except nurses, are higher in capital cities than in other areas. These issues have an impact on the provision of health services and the way they are delivered to people in rural and remote areas.
Source: ABS, Census of Population and Housing, 2006 (data available from ABS on request).
Go to more AIHW information on rural health
A key source of information about health occupations is the five-yearly national census conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Information based on this source is published in the AIHW publication Health and community services labour force 2001 and Health and community services labour force 2006.
More detailed information on specific health occupations, based on various AIHW health labour force surveys and other data collections, can be found on the publications page.
More detailed data and information on mental health-related occupations, based on various AIHW health labour force surveys, can be found on the mental health workforce page.
Further health labour force information is shown in Chapter 9 of Australia's health 2012.