Key findings into the New Zealand medical workforce released

Media releases

Te Kaunihera Rata o Aoteroa |The Medical Council of New Zealand today released the results of its New Zealand Medical Workforce in 2021 Survey.

Council’s Chair, Dr Curtis Walker says “key findings show that while Māori and Pasifika doctors remain under-represented in the medical workforce, the positive trends in undergraduate and graduate levels continue, with more Māori and Pasifika doctors in the workforce.”

The report shows the proportion of Māori doctors is up to 4.4%, and it’s promising to see that 21.6% of Otago’s graduates and 13.6% of Auckland’s graduates were Māori, with 6.6% and 7.0% Pasifika graduates from each medical school respectively. Further, the New Zealand Medical Schools Outcomes Database reports that 15.3 % of students beginning medical school between 2015 and 2019 identified as Māori and 7.2% as Pasifika.

Dr Walker says “It is important to see that the proportion of practising doctors who are women has increased from 46.2% in 2020 to 46.9% in this year’s survey. We predict that women will outnumber men in practise by 2025.” 

Also pleasing to note was that New Zealand is retaining more graduates than we previously have. New Zealand retained 90 % of its medical graduates from the 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 cohorts for 5 years after initial registration. Retention for earlier cohorts at the same point averaged just under 80%. This reflects initiatives such as the Ministry of Health’s Voluntary Bonding Scheme, which provide graduates with incentives to remain in New Zealand in the years immediately after graduation.

“However, we also know the pressures the medical workforce is under”, says Dr Walker. “It will be important to continue to graduate a diverse medical workforce from our medical schools, and to retain these people in our health system.”

Aotearoa to have a significant proportion of doctors who gained their medical degree overseas, with 42.1 % of doctors on the register being international medical graduates (IMGs).

“It is important that Council maintains robust and fair processes for the many doctors from overseas who wish to practise in Aotearoa, while also increasing the number of New Zealand-trained doctors and securing a more self-sustainable medical workforce.” Says Dr Walker.

Other key finding were:

  • The number of practising doctors increased. The total number of doctors on the register with practising certificates increased by 3.6% in 2021 from 17,671 to 18,308. 
  • The fastest-growing specialties were emergency medicine, urgent care and internal medicine.
  • The number of doctors registered in the vocational scope of emergency medicine increased by over 12% between 2020 and 2021. Urgent care increased by 6.4 % and internal medicine increased by 4.3%.

About the survey

The 2021 Medical Workforce Survey report is drawn from the feedback gathered when a doctor applies for the annual practising certificate, and provides an overview of the current medical workforce, insights into the changing demographics of the profession, and the trends around where and how doctors are working.


For more information:

Janette Deed
Senior Communications Advisor
Ph: 021 723 259