Workforce report shows physiotherapy in demand
A comprehensive workforce analysis sheds light on the physiotherapy profession in 2021.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency’s research unit recently undertook a project to analyse the physiotherapy workforce in Australia.
Data was collated from the 2019 workforce data survey, registrations, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Commonwealth Department of Health to produce a report on the Australian physiotherapy workforce.
The report highlights general demographics and characteristics of the physiotherapy profession, trends over the past five years, supply and demand, and initial findings on the impact of COVID-19.
The findings show that physiotherapy is a profession in considerable demand across various employment sectors, Physiotherapy Board of Australia Chair Kim Gibson said.
‘It is currently one of the faster growing of the regulated professions, with growth particularly strong in the past two years.’
The Board has developed a snapshot that will be posted on its website. Here are some highlights.
Physiotherapy is a growing profession that will need to continue to grow to meet expected future demand.
Sustained workforce pressure can be expected over coming years, driven by changing demographics and government policy developments.
General demographics and characteristics
Physiotherapy is the fourth largest of the health professions regulated under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme and constitutes 4.6 per cent of the regulated health practitioner workforce.
Some 81 per cent of physiotherapists define their principal role as clinicians, with the remainder as administrators, educators or researchers.
Most practising physiotherapists work in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland and in the major cities.
While the ratio is 145 physiotherapists per 100 000 people in major cities, this drops to 89 per 100 000 in regional areas and 46 per 100 000 in remote and very remote areas.
Trends over the past five years
There was a small increase in average hours worked (34.7 in 2015 to 35.1 in 2019), an increase in the proportion of physiotherapists working more than 35 hours per week (from 55.4 to 57.9 per cent) and a decline in those working more than 50 hours per week (from 7.6 to 6.9 per cent).
Supply and demand
On 30 June 2020, there were 10 167 students in approved programs of study in physiotherapy.
The number of approved physiotherapy programs has increased from 38 in 2015–16 to 49 in 2019–20.
This includes several new postgraduate programs.
Students are also taking longer to complete their studies.
Around 62 per cent of physiotherapy students will complete their undergraduate studies within four years, around 87 per cent within six years and around 94 per cent within nine years.
The data shows there will be jobs growth for the physiotherapy profession.
Pre-COVID-19 projections from May 2019 forecast growth of 24.6 per cent in physiotherapy employment to 2024.
This is an increase of 7900 jobs over the period and equates to an average annual growth of around 4.5 per cent.
‘This workforce data report is critical to the Board’s and the wider profession’s understanding of how and where registered physiotherapists work in Australia,’ Kim said.
‘It helps guide the Board, as the regulator for the profession, in how best to support practitioners to deliver safe care to the public.’
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