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Optical dispensers outnumber optometrists: report

Optical dispensers (4,481) outnumbered optometrists (4,034) in a recently released report on the nation’s eye-health workforce.

The Eye health workforce in Australia report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) stated that there were 828 ophthalmologists, 674 orthoptists, 651 optical mechanics, 158 orientation and mobility specialists and 90 occupational therapists specialising in eye health in 2011.

It was noted that there was no single comprehensive data source on Australia’s eye-health workforce. As such, multiple sources were used as the basis of the report, including the AIHW, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as well as professional organisations for orientation and mobility specialists and occupational therapists specialising in eye health.

The report examined the size and characteristics of the eye-health workforce and provided baseline data for a set of national indicators. The data sources covered several different periods, so 2011 was selected as the common reference year against which to compare the occupations in the workforce, with 2010 used as the baseline year for the indicators.

Optometrists and optical dispensers combined made up the majority of the eye-health workforce (78%) in 2011. Ophthalmologists had the lowest proportion of females at 17.4%. The next lowest were optical mechanics, with one third (32.9%) being female. Around half (47.8%) of all optometrists were female. The other occupations mostly comprised female staff.

In 2011, over three-quarters of the eye-health workforce worked in major cities (78.6%), though this varied by occupation from 74.7% of optical dispensers to 89.9% of optical mechanics. Overall, 70.2% of the Australian population were living in major cities in 2011.

The eye-health workforce increased in size almost 25% between 2006 and 2011. Growth was greatest for optical dispensers (37%). The Australian population grew by almost 29% over the same period.

In 2010, based on Australian Government and World Health Organization definitions, the eye-health workforce in Australia was estimated at 11,173 people, comprising 3,899 optometrists, 810 ophthalmologists and 6,464 allied ophthalmic personnel.


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