The physiotherapy workforce is ageing, becoming more masculinised, and is working longer hours: a demographic study

Deborah J. Schofield*, Susan L. Fletcher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Question: Is the physiotherapy workforce significantly older in 2001 than 1986? What is the cumulative attrition of the workforce to 2001 and what is the predicted attrition by 2026? Is the workforce becoming masculinised? Is the workforce working longer hours? Design: Observational study using Australian Bureau of Statistics census data from 1986 to 2001 to predict workforce characteristics in 2026. Participants: All physiotherapists who responded to the 1986, 1991, 1996 and 2001 censuses: 5928, 7106, 8788 and 10039 respondents in each year respectively. Results: The physiotherapy workforce has aged significantly since 1986 (p < 0.001), and women are older than men (p < 0.001). Forty-one percent of the 2001 physiotherapy workforce is predicted to retire by 2026, although around one-third of physiotherapists continue working after age 65. While physiotherapy remains a female-dominated profession, the proportion of males is increasing and has risen from 16% in 1986 to 27% in 2001. Physiotherapists are working longer hours than they did in the past, and while this is partly due to the increasing proportion of males in the workforce, generation X and Y females are also more likely to work longer hours than their predecessors. Conclusion: The retirement of older, mostly female, physiotherapists may exacerbate existing workforce shortages, particularly in the public and aged care sectors. However, the growing proportion of male physiotherapists and their generally higher workforce participation may go some way to improving labour force capacity overall.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-126
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian Journal of Physiotherapy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • health manpower
  • health services research
  • censuses
  • Australia
  • physiotherapy workforce


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