Female pharmacist levels continue to rise

The number of female pharmacists in the workforce is rising steadily, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Pharmacy labour force 1998 shows the number of women employed as pharmacists increased by 25% between 1991 and 1996, compared with a 4% increase for male pharmacists.

Co-author of the report, Warwick Conn, said that the rising number of women in pharmacy was changing pharmacy work arrangements in Australia because of lower average hours worked by female pharmacists and lower rates of pharmacy ownership by them.

'Female community pharmacists worked on average 31 hours per week in 1996 compared with 43 hours for males, while female hospital pharmacists averaged 35 hours per week compared with 40 hours per week for males.

'And although 41% of community pharmacists in 1996 were women, only 17% of sole proprietors and 26% of partner proprietors were women'.

Female pharmacists were strongly represented in hospital pharmacy, comprising 68% of that workforce in 1996.

Women also comprised 60% of Australian pharmacy graduates in 1997.

Overall, the number of employed pharmacists rose from 12,525 to 14,508 between 1992 and 1998, a 16% increase. This workforce growth accords with a corresponding increase in the number of prescriptions dispensed in the five years to 1998.

Mr Conn said that despite the increases in pharmacist numbers, the Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business has reported shortages of community and hospital pharmacists in all States except New South Wales.

'The shortages are mainly in rural areas, where it has proved difficult to replace retiring pharmacists or attract new pharmacists to areas where they are needed'.

'There are indications however, that this situation may change in the near future. There was a 50% increase in numbers of new pharmacy students between 1993 and 1998 - and the rural shortages are being addressed through the Government's Rural Pharmacy Maintenance Allowance to support existing pharmacies and help new pharmacies to start up in areas of need'.

Other findings in the report include:

  • The number of pharmacies has remained almost unchanged in recent years-there were 4,958 pharmacies in Australia in 1995 and 4,942 in 1999.
  • The proportion of practising pharmacists who were born in Australia declined from 85.3% in 1981 to 75.6% in 1996.



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