To identify ageing and retirement patterns of the pharmacy workforce since 1986 and the implications of those changes for future workforce planning. Method Australian Bureau of Statistics census data from 1986 to 2001 were used to examine ageing of the pharmacy workforce and attrition of pharmacists aged 50 years and over, The number of pharmacists to retire was projected over the next 20 years. Key findings The Australian pharmacy workforce has aged significantly since 1986 (P<0.01), Forty-one per cent of pharmacists practising in 2001 are predicted to retire by 2026. Baby boomer pharmacists were more likely to work long hours (49+ per week) in 2001 than in 1986, and than generation X pharmacists in 2001. The proportion of women in pharmacy has increased from 39% in 1986 to over 50% in 2001. Women are still more likely to work part-time than males, although they are less likely to do so than they were in 1986. Conversely, the proportion of male pharmacists working part-time is rising. Conclusions With baby boomer and older cohorts currently making up 65% of the pharmacy workforce, their retirement will place increased pressure on a profession already facing severe shortages. The growing proportion of female pharmacists and their generally lower workforce participation mean the potential for continued pharmacy shortages.