More health and community services workers, but supply uneven across regions

Health and community services worker numbers in Australia have risen by 11.4% and 26.8% respectively since 1996, but supply was unevenly distributed across the regions, according to a report jointly released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Health and community services labour force, 2001 shows there were 450,792 Australians employed in health, and 237,055 in community services in 2001.

Employment in the aged and disabled care areas experienced the largest absolute growth in numbers between 1996 and 2001 (15,849)-representing a 44.1% increase.

The number of complementary health therapists increased by 31.2%, followed by allied health workers (26.6%), medical imaging workers (25.0%), pharmacists (13.0%), doctors (12.6%), dental workers (11.0%), and child and youth services workers (9.0%).

Despite this growth, Head of the AIHW's Labour Force and Rural Health Unit, Glenice Taylor, said the workforce supply seemed to be 'unevenly distributed' across some areas of Australia.

'There was a general decrease in the supply of health and community services workers with increasing remoteness-from 3,005 and 1,008 per 100,000 population, respectively, in Australia's major cities to 1,498 and 796 per 100,000, respectively, in very remote areas', she said.

Ms Taylor said that some of the fast-growing regions on the outskirts of the major capital cities in Australia had the lowest supply of health and community services workers of any region in their respective states.

The data, from the 2001 Census, also showed substantial changes in the occupational mix within the health and community services industries over the five years to 2001.

'For example, there were decreases in hospitality and food preparation workers (down 9.3%), and tradespersons, plant operators, labourers and cleaners (down 19.2%).' Ms Taylor said that this probably reflected some outsourcing of food preparation, cleaning and maintenance services.

Other findings in Health and community services labour force, 2001, are that:

  • There were about 2,350 employed health workers per 100,000 population -ranging from 2,150 per 100,000 in the Northern Territory to 2,614 in South Australia.
  • Australia has 1,228 community services workers per 100,000 population -ranging from 1,077 in NSW to 1,694 in the ACT.

30 September 2003


Further information: Ms Glenice Taylor, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1153
Media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032