Numbers of nurses and midwives increasing—but not keeping up with population growth

Australia’s nursing and midwifery workforce is continuing to grow, but not as quickly as Australia’s population, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Nursing and midwifery workforce 2011, shows that in 2011, the total number of nurses and midwives registered in Australia was 326,669, a 6.8% increase since 2007.

‘The number of nurses and midwives employed in nursing also increased between 2007 and 2011—up 7.7% from 263,331 to 283,577,’ said AIHW spokesperson Vicki Bennett.

Of those employed in nursing and midwifery, 36,074 were midwives, though only 15,523 reported working in midwifery as the principal area of their main job.

Despite the increasing numbers of registered and employed nurses and midwives, when compared to the population, supply decreased by 1.3% between 2007 and 2011, from 1,095 to 1,081 full-time equivalent nurses and midwives per 100,000 population based on a 38-hour week.

‘Supply also varied regionally, ranging from 1,102 full-time equivalent nurses and midwives per 100,000 population in Major cities to 995 in Outer regional areas to 1,336 in Very remote areas based on a 38-hour week,’ Ms Bennett said.

Nursing and midwifery continued to be a female-dominated profession, with women comprising 90% of employed nurses and midwives in 2011.

‘The nursing and midwifery workforce is also getting older, with the average age increasing from 43.7 to 44.5 years between 2007 and 2011. The proportion of nurses and midwives aged 50 or older also increased over this period—from 33.0% to 38.6%.’

The average weekly hours worked by employed nurses and midwives decreased from 33.3 hours in 2007 to 32.8 hours in 2011. Nurses and midwives working in the public sector (almost two-thirds of all nurses) worked an average of 2.4 hours more per week than their private sector counterparts.

Of all employed clinical nurses and midwives, almost two-thirds worked in hospitals.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.


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