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Skilled Occupations List submissions put workforce shortages and excesses in the spotlight

Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Optometry, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Psychology, The Health Industry

The new Skilled Occupations List (SOL) comes into effect on 1st July 2016. There have been changes to the status of a number of health professions, and a large number have been flagged for consideration in 2017.

Health professions being added to SOL from 1st July 2016:

  • Orthotist or prosthetist
  • Audiologist

Health professions being removed from SOL from 1st July 2016:

  • Dental hygienist
  • Dental prosthetist
  • Dental technician
  • Dental therapist
  • Occupational Health and Safety Adviser

Flagged occupations for 2016-2017:

Following each review, there are a number of occupations which are ‘flagged’ for possible removal in the future. Generally, occupations are flagged when there is emerging evidence of excess supply in the labour market.

  • Medical LaboratorSkilled Occupation List 2016y Scientist
  • Medical Diagnostic Radiographer
  • Medical Radiation Therapist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Podiatrist
  • Speech Pathologist
  • General Practitioner
  • Anaesthetist
  • Cardiologist
  • Endocrinologist
  • Gastroenterologist
  • Intensive Care Specialist
  • Paediatrician
  • Obstetrician and Gynaecologist
  • Medical Practitioners nec
  • Psychotherapist

Flagged occupations 2015-2016:

  • Medical Laboratory Scientist
  • Occupational Health and Safety Adviser
  • Speech Pathologist
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Dental Prosthetist
  • Dental Technician
  • Dental Therapist


Around 30 peak bodies and health industry organisations made submissions for consideration for the 2016-2017 Skilled Occupations List. They were asked to indicate whether they thought a particular profession should be included on the Skilled Occupations list due to a skills shortage, excluded from the list, or if the status quo should be maintained.

Organisations who recommended a profession be included on SOL due to workforce shortage:

  1. Council of Deans of Nursing and Midwifery (Australia and New Zealand)
    Wendy Cross from the Council indicated that there is an imbalance in the demand of mental health registered nurses and aged care registered nurses
  2. National Rural Health Alliance
    This report shows clear evidence that there is a substantial undersupply of almost all types of health professional in rural and remote Australia
  3. Orthoptics Australia
  4. Osteopathy Australia
    The shortage of osteopaths is presented in this attachment
  5. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists
    RANZCO considers that ophthalmologists in general are meeting private sector demand, with the exception of the small number of paediatric ophthalmologists being the critical workforce issue
  6. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists
    The President of RANZCP, Professor Malcolm Hopwood, stated in his letter that the current workforce shortage faced by psychiatry is likely to worsen over time. There is also a particular need for psychiatrists to work in rural and remote areas of Australia.
  7. Australian Association of Social Workers
    Kym Daly, Senior Manager, Professional Standards of AASC, said that Demand for social workers is expected to continue to grow strongly as per Australian Government Job Outlook projections:
    Long-term employment growth – 10 years: 194.6%
    Medium-term employment growth – 5 years: 82.9%
    Short-term employment growth – 2 years (%): 38.1%
    Likely future employment growth for the next five years: Very strong growth
    Level of future job openings: Above average
  8. Council on Chiropractic Education Australasia
  9. Technology Transfer International (Australia)
  10. Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council
    This submission attachment supports the claim that there are difficulties in recruiting and retaining health and community services workers in rural and remote areas, and that there is a need for preventative primary care roles with a broad skill base and the ability to refer to specialist staff and services.

Organisations who recommended a profession be excluded from SOL due to workforce excess or a shortage of practitioners being unlikely:

  1. Dietitians Association of Australia
    The submission HWA Workforce Data on Dietitians shows a significant increase in the number of dietetics programs graduating dietitians into the workforce, and that there is unlikely to be a shortage of dietitians.
  2. Optometry Australia
    The submission is supported by a recent study found that there are currently sufficient numbers of optometrists to meet demand and that there is likely to be a substantial excess supply in the short term.
  3. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
    The College data presents that the profession is well positioned to meet the demand for, and supply of, skills in the medium-to-long term.
  4. Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
    The RACGP is seeking an exclusion for general practitioners on the SOL and recommends close monitoring for general practitioners, both specialist and non-specialist, as stated in the attached submission.
  5. Australian & New Zealand College of Anaesthetists
    Jonathan Kruger, General Manager Policy of the College said, “The Health Workforce Report 2025 Volume 31 (HWA 20205) from Health Workforce Australia suggests that, without major change, there will be a small oversupply of anaesthetists in 2016 and that supply and demand will be roughly in balance in 2025.”
  6. Australian Clinical Psychology Association
    The Psychology Board of Australia statistic shows that the number of registered psychologists has grown 10% in the past 5 years. The current per capita number of psychologists is 1:700.
  7. Australian Institute of Radiography
  8. Australian Medical Association
  9. Australian College of Intensive Care Medicine of Australia and New Zealand
  10. Australian Society of Anaesthetists
    In this position statement, it is stated that Australia does not have an overall shortage of anaesthetists, but there is an acknowledged workforce distribution which can result in a relative shortage of anaesthetists in some rural areas.

Organisations who recommended the status quo be maintained due to the workforce being in balance:

  1. SOL health 2016Council of Physiotherapy Deans, Australia and New Zealand
  2. Exercise and Sports Science Australia
  3. Occupational Therapy Council (Australia and New Zealand) Ltd
  4. Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
    Tricia Quek from the College said that there is a growing need for more surgeons in rural and regional areas. Data shows a large dependence on overseas-trained surgeons. This is in line with Health workforce Australia’s report, Health Workforce 2025.
  5. Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia
    Jerry Yik from the SHPA said, “There are problems in filling pharmacist positions that require highly skilled clinical pharmacists, particularly in rural areas.”
  6. Speech Pathology Australia
    CEO of Speech Pathology Australia, Gail Mulcair, said in the submission that there are insufficient numbers of more experienced speech pathologists with specialised clinical skill sets. She also said that there is a maldistribution of speech pathologists with more speech pathologists working in metropolitan versus regional areas and even fewer speech pathologists working in rural and remote communities
  7. The Australian Orthotic Prosthetic Association
    Leigh Clarke, AOPA Executive Officer, said that demand for services is expected to increase in line with the trend for increasing chronic diseases. This claim is supported by the Australian Orthotist/Prosthetist WorkforceSnapshot and Trend (2007-2012).
  8. The Pharmacy Guild of Australia
    The Pharmacy Board of Australia (the Board) June 2015 data shows that of the 26,179 general registered pharmacists in Australia, only 0.72% (191) are located in the Northern Territory, which is a decline compared to the 2014 data of 0.74% (188). Occupational reports for individual State/Territories (ANZCO 2515) indicate that Queensland and WA report regional shortages in labour market recruitment. The Tasmania reports indicated recruitment difficulties.
  9. Australian Dental and Oral Health Therapists’ Association
    This review supported the claim that there is a demand for oral health therapists in outer regional, rural and remote areas of Australia in both public and private sectors.
  10. Australian Dental Association

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