The number of medical practitioners in Australia increased by nearly 14% between 2000 and 2004, and nurse numbers increased by 12.5% between 1999 and 2004, according to two labour force reports released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The first report, Medical labour force, 2004, shows that there were 65,499 medical practitioners registered in Australia in 2004, and most of them (58,211 or 88.9%) were working in medicine. The remaining 11.1% were either working in a different occupation or not working at all.
Ms Glenice Taylor, Head of the Institute's Labour Force Unit said 'More than 90% of the medical practitioners working in medicine were clinicians, and just over 40% were primary care practitioners - mainly GPs.'
The gender balance of medical practitioners also continued to tip, with women forming 32.4% of the medical labour force in 2004, compared to 30.1% in 2000.
The report showed that medical practitioners worked a slightly shorter week in 2004 than they did at the start of the decade - an average of 44 hours per week compared to 45.5 in 2000.
'While most medical practitioners were working fewer hours per week, the reduction in hours was off-set by the rise in numbers. The net result was an increase in supply overall (as measured by full-time equivalent medical practitioners per 100,000 population) from 270 in 2000 to 283 in 2004,' said Ms Taylor.
The second report, Nursing and midwifery labour force, 2004, shows that there were 232,638 registered nurses, and 56,273 enrolled nurses, making a total of 288,911 nurses in 2004.
The number of those employed in nursing increased by 11.0% from 224,822 in 1999 to 249,458 in 2004. The remaining nurses were either working in a different occupation or not working at all.
Dr Paul Meyer, of the Institute's Labour Force Unit, said the increase over the five-year period from 1999 to 2004 was mainly due to an 11.8% increase in the number of employed registered nurses.
The report also found nurses working more hours in 2004 than they did in 1999. Their average work week increased from 30.6 hours in 1999 to 32.8 in 2004.
The increases in both nurse numbers and hours worked resulted in a 12% overall increase in the level of nursing supply (as measured by full-time equivalent nurses per 100,000 population) from 1,039 in 1999 to 1,164 in 2004.
Supply increased in all jurisdictions except the Northern Territory. South Australia and Western Australia had the highest levels of supply (with 1,374 and 1,325 full-time equivalent nurses per 100,000 population, respectively), while Queensland, with 998, had the lowest level.
While still a female-dominated profession, the proportion of male nurses increased slightly from 7.9% in 1999 to 8.7% in 2004. The increase was greater for enrolled nurses than registered nurses.