This report presents information on the medical practitioner labour force, based primarily on estimates derived from the 2007 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Medical Labour Force Survey. This survey collects information on the demographic and employment characteristics of medical practitioners who were registered in Australia at the time of the survey. It is conducted annually by state and territory health authorities, with the questionnaire administered by the medical boards (or councils) in each jurisdiction, in conjunction with the registration renewal process. The main findings of the report are as follows:

  • In 2007, the total number of medical practitioners identified by the Medical Labour Force Survey (after adjusting for multi-state registrations) was estimated to be 77,193. The number of practitioners increased by 20.5% between 2003 and 2007.
  • Between 2003 and 2007, the number of medical practitioners actually employed in medicine increased by 19.6% from 56,207 to 67,208. In 2007, 93.2% (62,652) were working as clinicians, of whom 38.5% were primary care practitioners and 34.6% were specialists.
  • The average weekly hours worked by employed medical practitioners decreased from 44.4 hours in 2003 to 43.1 hours in 2007. Over the same period average hours worked by male practitioners decreased from 47.5 to 45.9 hours, while average hours worked by female practitioners remained steady at 37.6 hours between 2004 and 2007.
  • Despite a decrease in average hours worked from 2003 to 2007, the overall supply of employed medical practitioners increased from 279 to 305 full-time equivalent medical practitioners per 100,000 population over that period due to an overall increase of 19.6% in numbers.
  • Medical practitioner supply across regions ranged from 332 full-time equivalents per 100,000 population in Major cities to 157 in Outer regional areas. In contrast, the variation in the supply of primary care practitioners was smaller between Major cities and Outer regional areas (95 and 84 full-time equivalents per 100,000 population, respectively).
  • The average age of medical practitioners in 2007 was the same as that estimated in 2003, at 45.9 years. The age profile of male practitioners changed little between 2003 and 2007. Whereas for female practitioners the proportion aged 55-74 years increased and the proportion aged less than 45 years decreased.
  • Females continued to increase their share of the medical practitioner workforce, making up 34.0% of employed practitioners in 2007 (up from 31.9% in 2003). Among clinicians, in 2007, the female share varied between types of clinical practice, accounting for 47.2% of hospital non-specialists compared with 23.0% of specialists.
  • The overall response rate to the 2007 survey was estimated to be 69.9%. The national rate has gradually declined over time, from the 71.4% response rate achieved in 2003. Estimates for some jurisdictions should be interpreted with caution due to the relatively low response rate to the survey.

Estimates in this report may vary from workforce estimates produced by individual jurisdictions, as the AIHW removes medical practitioners apparently employed in more than one jurisdiction, and due to differences in imputation and estimation processes.