More than 11,000 Australians were employed as physiotherapists in Australia in 1998-representing about 60 physiotherapists per 100,000 population-according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Physiotherapy Labour Force 1998 also shows that this rate varied considerably according to geographic area. Across the States and Territories, South Australia had the highest rate (75 per 100,000 population) and the Northern Territory the lowest (43). Capital cities had a higher rate (70) than regional areas, which ranged from 59% in large rural centres to 30% in remote areas.
The report shows that 95% of employed physiotherapists worked as clinicians in their main job. The other 5% worked as administrators, educators and researchers, or in other physiotherapy-related fields.
Although a predominantly female field, males made up a larger proportion of physiotherapists (23% of employed physiotherapists in 1998) than some other health occupations such as nursing (8% in 1997) and occupational therapy (5% in 1998). That proportion is likely to grow-almost 40% of new physiotherapy graduates in 1998 were men.
Head of the Labour Force and Rural Health Unit, Glenice Taylor, said that, as with many other health occupations, the physiotherapy labour force was getting older.
'In 1993, the largest proportion of physiotherapists were aged between 25 and 34-this has now shifted to the 35 to 44 age group,' Ms Taylor said.
Although physiotherapists are getting older, the profession as a whole is a growth area.
'According to Census figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics there was a 25% increase in the number of employed physiotherapists between 1991 and 1996', Ms Taylor said.
'This growth is expected to continue-the Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business has predicted strong employment growth, and the number of students graduating from physiotherapy courses also increased by just over 30% in the four years between 1996 and 1999.'