Comparing rural and regional migration patterns of Australian medical general practitioners with other professions: implications for rural workforce strategies
Background: The shortage of professional workers in rural and regional Australia continues as a major policy challenge. There has been substantially more strategy investment for the medical general practitioner (GP) profession than for other professions, particularly at the start of their careers.
Aims: To examine differences between domestic migration patterns of GPs and other professionals to rural and regional zones in Australia for younger, mid-life and older workers.
Data and methods: Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2011 Census were used to examine five-year migration rates for professionals in five ABS occupational classifications: generalist medical practitioners (GPs); engineering professionals; legal professionals; education professionals; and other health professionals. Migration volumes were benchmarked for GPs and compared both for other professions and career stage.
Results: GPs were less likely than other professionals to migrate from major urban to rural zones, regional to rural zones, or rural to regional zones. Younger GPs had the highest rural migration rates, while mid-life and older GPs were least likely to migrate to rural and regional zones. In contrast, increasingly age was associated positively with migration to rural zones for those in the other four professions.
Conclusions: Despite concerted policy efforts to encourage more GPs to move to rural areas, overall rural migration rates for GPs are lower than for other professionals, especially for older workers. Further investigation of the links between GP migration patterns and workforce policies needs to be undertaken to inform the application or otherwise of workforce strategies used by other professions.