This bulletin presents summary findings on the nursing and midwifery labour force based on data from the 2008 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Nursing and Midwifery Labour Force Survey. This survey collects information on the demographic and employment characteristics of nurses who were registered or enrolled in Australia at the time of the survey. It is conducted annually by state and territory health authorities, with the questionnaire administered by the registration boards (or councils) in each jurisdiction, usually in conjunction with the registration renewal process.

The main findings of the report are as follows:

  • In 2008, the total number of nurses identified by the Nursing and Midwifery Labour Force Survey (after adjusting for multiple registrations) was estimated to be 312,736, comprising 253,616 registered nurses and 59,119 enrolled nurses.
  • The number of registered and enrolled nurses in the labour force (i.e. employed in or looking for work in nursing in Australia) increased by 11.6% between 2004 and 2008, from 253,592 to 283,087.
  • Between 2004 and 2008, the number of nurses actually employed in nursing increased by 11.8%, from 243,916 to 272,741.
  • The average weekly hours worked by employed nurses and midwives increased from 32.8 hours in 2004 to 33.4 hours in 2008. Over the same period, the proportion of nurses working part time (less than 35 hours per week) declined slightly from 49.6% to 47.9%.
  • Nursing supply across regions ranged from 1,035 FTE nurses per 100,000 population in Major cities to 1,275 in Very remote areas.
  • Between 2004 and 2008, the proportion of nurses aged 50 years and over increased from 29.1% to 34.9%. The average age of nurses increased from 43.3 years in 2004 to 44.1 years in 2008.
  • Nursing continued to be a female dominated profession, with females comprising 90.6% of employed nurses in 2008 (down slightly from 91.3% in 2004).
  • About one in seven nurses (14.9%) in 2008 indicated they obtained their first nursing qualification in a country outside of Australia.
  • The overall response rate to the 2008 survey was estimated to be 46.6%; however, there was considerable variation in response rates across the states and territories.