Beyond nursing

OECD Observer

Click to enlarge. Source: OECD Health Data 2006

Traditionally a male bastion in many countries, the medical profession has seen the proportion of female doctors steadily increasing, accounting now for an average of 38% of all doctors in OECD countries, up from 24% a quarter of a century ago.

In some countries, particularly in central and eastern Europe and in Finland, female doctors now outnumber male ones. On the other hand, the proportion of female doctors, while rising, remains relatively low in Japan as well as the US, Australia and Canada.

Given recent trends in school enrolment and graduation patterns, the proportion of female doctors is set to rise further. In the US, almost half of first-year students in medical schools in 2002-03 were women, up from 29% in 1980-81. In Canada, 53% of graduates from medical schools in 2004 were women, up from 45% ten years earlier.

More women doctors is good news for primary care, which women tend to specialise in, such as paediatrics, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynaecology. For some countries, it may also mean greater self-sufficiency in doctor supply and relying less on having to attract physicians from abroad. Meanwhile, nursing continues to attract predominantly women. The share of female nurses exceeds 85% in all countries, with the exceptions of Italy and Spain where a sizeable share of nurses are now men.

©OECD Observer No 256, July 2006

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