Female GP numbers continue to climb

Australia can expect to see a rapid rise in the number of female GPs over the next decade, according to Medical Labour Force 1997, a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report shows that the proportion of new female medical students exceeded 50% for the first time - increasing from 43.6% in 1989 to 50.3% in 1998.

Co-author of the report, Mr Warwick Conn, said that women made up 33% of the GP workforce overall, but in the 25-34 year age group comprised 53.2% of GP workforce.

'In addition to this, women now make up 60% of the GP trainees in Australia,' Mr Conn said. 'If this pattern continues Australia will have a rapid increase in the proportion of female GPs over the next 10 years.'

'We're also seeing that female doctors have dramatically different career paths and employment characteristics compared with their male colleagues. Women are more likely to practise in metropolitan areas than men, and female medical students are much more likely than men to choose general practice as a career path and less likely to select specialty practice - especially surgery.'

Medical Labour Force 1997 also shows:

  • The total medical workforce increased by 5.2% between 1994 and 1997 compared with a population increase of 3.7%. At December 1997, there were 48,321 practitioners employed and practising in medicine. Of these, 45,641 were clinicians and 2,680 were in non-clinical roles as administrators and educators, and in public health and occupational health.
  • The 13,549 female clinicians in 1997 represent almost 28% of the clinician workforce - up from 25% in 1993.
  • The number of GPs working in rural areas has increased, with large rural centres now at the same level (108 GPs per 100,000 population) as metropolitan centres outside the capital cities. Small towns (95 per 100,000 population), other rural areas (77) and remote areas (72) are less well supplied.
  • During 1997-98 the number of specialist physicians rose by more than 4%. However, there was much lower growth in doctor numbers in other sectors of the medical workforce.
  • There was strong growth (8.3%) in the employment of salaried medical officers in public hospitals during 1997-98.
  • State health authorities employed 1,713 temporary resident overseas-trained doctors during 1997-98 - a 5.3% increase on 1996-97, which in turn was 65.9% up on the previous year's 980 doctors.

22 October 1999


Further information: Mr Warwick Conn, ph. 02 6244 1154.
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, ph. 02 6244 1032.