This report presents information on the medical workforce, based on estimates derived from the National Health Workforce Data Set: medical practitioners 2012, the third in this series. It includes data collected as part of the national registration and accreditation process.

How many medical practitioners do we have?

In 2012, there were 91,504 medical practitioners registered in Australia. The Australian medical workforce has grown substantially over recent years. The number of medical practitioners employed in medicine increased by 16.4% between 2008 and 2012, from 68,455 to 79,653. The overall supply of clinicians across all states and territories increased by 10.0% between 2008 and 2012, from 323.2 full-time equivalents per 100,000 population in 2008 to 355.6 in 2012.

The supply of medical practitioners was not uniform across the country, with the supply generally being greater in Major cities than in Remote/Very remote areas. The supply of general practitioners was highest, however, in Remote/Very remote areas, at 134.3 full-time equivalents per 100,000 population, but overall these areas had the lowest supply of medical practitioners in total.

Who are they?

The medical workforce is predominantly male, but women are increasingly represented, growing to 37.9% of employed practitioners in 2012 (up from 34.9% in 2008). Among clinicians, women accounted for 46.5% of hospital non-specialists compared to 26.8% of specialists. The proportion of general practitioners who were female increased over the 5-year period from 38.4% in 2008 to 40.8% in 2012.

In 2012 there were 221 employed medical practitioners who identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, representing 0.3% of all employed medical practitioners in Australia.

The average age of medical practitioners differed little between 2008 (45.7) and 2012 (46.0). About two thirds (65.8%) of medical practitioners who answered the relevant question gained their initial medical qualification in Australia.

What types of work do they do?

Of the employed medical practitioners in 2012, 94.5 % (75,258) were working as clinicians, of whom 35.0% were specialists and 34.5% were general practitioners. 'Physician', which includes general medicine, cardiology and haematology, was the largest main speciality of practice (5,918). 'Surgery' was the second largest (4,275). Of employed non-clinicians, more than half were researchers (27.8%) or administrators (24.5%).

The average weekly hours worked by employed medical practitioners remained stable between 2008 and 2012. In 2012, male medical practitioners worked an average of 45.3 hours per week, while female medical practitioners worked an average of 38.3 hours per week. In 2012, both male and female medical practitioners aged 20-34 worked the highest average weekly hours (47.6 hours and 44.0 hours respectively).