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The medical workforce in 2025: what’s in the numbers?

This is a republished version of an article previously published in MJA Open

Medical workforce supply levels follow a predictable, if lengthy, cycle between phases of shortage and surplus. In Australia we are currently in an upswing stage; there has been significant growth in Australian medical workforce supply in the past decade. Between 1999 and 2009, there was an increase of over 20 000 employed medical practitioners — from around 50 000 to almost 73 000.1 Recent expansion of medical training programs does not largely account for this increase, as graduates of these programs only began entering the workforce in 2006, with the majority entering after 2008.2

While such observed increases may reduce concerns about workforce shortages at the global level, they occur in the context of increasing demand for services at rates beyond population growth. In this article, I review current trends in medical workforce supply levels, identify key policy challenges arising from them and discuss how these might be met to ensure an adequate and sustainable workforce into the future. Emerging workforce…