The Medical Labour Force Survey 2005 identified a total of 61,165 people in the medical labour force. A further 6,725 were not employed in the medical labour force. These included:

  • 2,947 who were working overseas in medicine
  • 414 who were employed elsewhere, not in medicine
  • 695 who were not employed and
  • 2,669 who were retired.
Of those who were in the medical labour force, 56,084 (93.1%) were employed as clinicians, including:
  • 22,589 or 36.9% who were working in primary care
  • 6,632 or 10.8% who were hospital non-specialists
  • 19,943 or 32.6% who were specialists and
  • 6,920 or 11.3% who were identified as specialists-in-training.
In 2005, of the estimated 60,252 employed medical practitioners in Australia, approximately half (31,101) reported working some hours in the public sector and two-thirds (37,960) privately (Table 3.1.1). They also work in a variety of settings, with about half working in private rooms and about 40% in acute care hospitals.

Table 3.1.1: Employed medical practitioners: Work setting and sector, 2005

Work setting

Public numbers

Private numbers

Private medical practitioners' room/surgery-32,181
Hospital (including psychiatric hospitals)26,4809,279
Non-residential health facility, such as ambulatory centre, day surgery, community health centre or outpatient clinic4,2592,094
24-hour or other medical centre (not included above)-1,119
Other residential care facility, such as nursing home or hospice7411,772
Aboriginal health service514184
Tertiary education institution2,2691,336
Government (including defence force, laboratory and research organisation)1,479-
Other4861,444
Total(a)31,10137,960
Total 2001(a)27,57635,132

(a) A medical practitioner may work in both sectors and more than one setting.
Source: AIHW Medical Labour Force Survey, 2005.

Over the last two decades, the trend within all recognised medical disciplines has been towards practise in smaller, more specialised clinical areas, and the pressure to recognise sub-specialities and entirely new disciplines has increased. Yet the international evidence points to the inefficiencies, costs and risks of further fragmentation of care, and illustrates that effective, comprehensive, integrated primary health care underpins cost effective health systems.

(Royal Australian College of General Practitioners' submission)

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General practitioners

In 2006-07, there were 25,564 GPs providing services under Medicare. The volume of services indicates that this is the FWE of 18,091 GPs.

Although the number of GPs continues to grow, this growth does not indicate increased availability of GPs over time, as the growth in the medical workforce has not kept pace with the rate of population growth. Over the decade from 1996-97 to 2006-07 the FWE of GPs increased by 10.9%, while the population increased by some 13.0% resulting in an overall decrease in the supply.

The growth in the number of FWE GPs working in rural and remote areas rose by 8.7% over the past three years. This includes both GPs new to Australia and GPs relocating from metropolitan areas. Medicare data shows that 36% of doctors currently working in Australia were trained overseas, with more than 41% of doctors working in rural and remote areas having trained overseas (Figure 3.3).

Graph showing the proportion of overseas trained doctors in the Australian workforce by Fulltime work equivalent and broad RRMA for 1996-97 and 2006-07.