02.03.01. Size and structure of the workforce | New Zealand

02.03.01. Size and structure of the workforce | New Zealand

14 Sep 2022

The most recent Medical Council of New Zealand (MCNZ) statistics from 2018 (Table 26) (Medical Council of New Zealand, 2018) showed that NZ had 333 doctors per 100,000 people. There is a reliance on international medical graduates (IMG) who account for 40% of the medical workforce. Available data report 33 neurologists in the public sector in 2015 (Ranta et al., 2015) and 72 Geriatricians in 2012 (New Zealand Parliament, n.d.). The proportion of medical doctors of Māori and Pacific ethnicity remains low relative to the proportion of these ethnicities in the NZ population (table 27) (Medical Council of New Zealand, 2018).


Table 26: Number of medical doctors, neurologists, and geriatricians in NZ

Total (#) Total (per 105) IMG (%)
All Doctors 2018 (Medical Council of New Zealand, 2018) 16292 333 40%
Public Neurologists 2015 (Ranta et al., 2015) 36 0.8
Geriatricians 2012 (New Zealand Parliament, n.d.) 72 1.6


Table 27: proportion of medical doctors by ethnicity and relative to the total population

Ethnicity Proportion of Doctors (%) Proportion of NZ population (%)
Maori 3.5 16.5
Pacific 1.8 8.1
NZ European 51 70.2



Nursing council workforce statistics for 2018/19 counted over 50,000 registered nurses, equating to ~1,000 nurses per 100,000 population (Table 28) (Nursing Council of New Zealand, n.d.). This compares with 1160 per 100,000 in Australia, 990 per 100,000 in Canada, and 790 per 100,000 in the UK based on the most recent OECD data. Registered nurses practice independently and in collaboration with other health professionals, perform general nursing functions, and delegate to and direct enrolled nurses, health care assistants and others. Nurse practitioners have advanced education, clinical training and the demonstrated competence and legal authority to practice beyond the level of a registered nurse. Enrolled nurses practice under the direction and delegation of a registered nurse or nurse practitioner to deliver nursing care and health education across the life span to health consumers in community, residential or hospital settings.

As with the medical workforce, Māori (7.6%) and Pacific people (4%) are underrepresented when compared against their proportions of the total NZ population (table 29) (Nursing Council of New Zealand, n.d.).

Table 28: NZ nursing workforce (Nursing Council of New Zealand, n.d.)

Total direct care nurses Nurses per 105 population
Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners 49,718 1,002.9
Enrolled nurses 2,365 47.7
Total Nursing workforce 52,083 1,050.6


Table 29: proportion of registered nurses by ethnicity (Nursing Council of New Zealand, n.d.)

Ethnicity Proportion of Nurses (%) Proportion of NZ population (%)
Maori 7.6 16.5
Pacific 4.0 8.1
NZ European 58.5 70.2


Social workers:

New Zealand has 8,742 social workers registered in NZ as of August 2020 (Social Workers Registration Board website).


Medical Council of New Zealand. (2018). The New Zealand Medical Workforce in 2018. Wellington Medical Council of New Zealand. Available from: https://www.mcnz.org.nz/assets/Publications/Workforce-Survey/434ee633ba/Workforce-Survey-Report-2018.pdf

New Zealand Parliament. (n.d.). Indicator 34: Specially trained physicians. Available from: https://oag.parliament.nz/2013/ageing/our-ageing-population-indicators/indicator-34.

Nursing Council of New Zealand. (n.d.). Tatauranga Ohu Mahi, Workforce Statistics. Available from: https://www.nursingcouncil.org.nz/Public/Publications/Workforce_Statistics/NCNZ/publications-section/Workforce_statistics.aspx?hkey=3f3f39c4-c909-4d1d-b87f-e6270b531145.

Ranta, A., Tiwari, P., Mottershead, J., Abernethy, D., Simpson, M., Brickell, K., et al. (2015). New Zealand’s neurologist workforce: a pragmatic analysis of demand, supply, and future projections. NZ Med J. 128(1419):35-44. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26365844/.

Social Workers Registration Board website. Available from: https://swrb.govt.nz/.