IBISWorld predicts the optometry industry in Australia will contract by 3.1 per cent this year,1 and a research paper published in Clinical and Experimental Optometry in 2015 warns that 2016 will be a turning point in the supply vs. demand of optometrists in Australia, leading to significant oversupply by 2036.2
Corporate optometry in Australia remains optimistic about career prospects for new graduates, private practitioners less so. Optometry Australia has voiced its concerns, with CEO Genevieve Quilty stating although there are sufficient numbers of registered optometrists in Australia to meet current demands for eye health and vision care, efforts must be made to achieve the optimal balance for the optometry workforce in the future.
According to figures recently released from Optometry Board Australia there are now 4,983 registered optometrists in Australia (up approx. 1 per cent on 2014) with 2,115 endorsed for therapeutic prescribing
(up approx. 1 per cent on 2014).
In their research paper, Professors Ernest Healy, Patricia Kiely and Dharma Arunachalam predicted 7,264 equivalent full time optometrists (EFTO) in Australia by 2036, creating “substantial surpluses” in all states and territories except Queensland, Tasmania and Northern Territory. Factors such as mortality, ageing, attrition, hours worked, new graduates and immigration were taken into account.2
there are now 4,983 registered optometrists in Australia (up approx. 1 per cent on 2014).
Major increases in the difference between supply and demand will commence after 2016, soon after graduates emerge from the two new schools of optometry.2
However, according to Anthea Muir, Luxottica’s President Optical Retail Australia and New Zealand said there is plenty of opportunity for new graduates going forward, particularly in regional Australia. “There is a continual shortage of optometrists in regional Australia and New Zealand” which means “not all Aussies and Kiwis have easy access to high quality eye care”, said Ms. Muir.
“Many optometrists choose to not practice full-time due to family commitments, practice management requirements or further education. This means that more optometry graduates are required to fulfil practice needs.”
Ms. Muir said OPSM and Laubman & Pank currently have over 1,000 optometrists and “wishes to double the number within the next five years”.
Specsavers, which currently employs over 925 full-time equivalent optometrists, claims there are nowhere near enough graduating optometrists to meet demand. “Despite the addition of Deakin and Flinders Optometry Schools, we still see a significant and continuing under-supply of optometrists in both Australia and New Zealand,” said Peter Larsen the organisation’s Optometry Director. “The November 2015 graduating student cohort numbered around 240 individuals (including Auckland but discounting Deakin whose students graduate in July each year) and more than 90 of them have chosen to join Specsavers. While that sounds like a big number, we have more than 60 grad positions unfilled because there just aren’t enough graduates to go around. In addition, if they were available, we would take on another 80 experienced optometrists tomorrow.”
1. IbisWorld Optometry and Optical Dispensing in Australia: Market Research Report, September 2015
2. Ernest Healy DipArt&Design BA Hons Bed PhD, Patricia M Kiely BScOptom, PhD, Dharma Arunachalam MSc PhD, Optometry supply and demand in Australia 2011- -2036. Clinical and Experimental Optometry 98.3 May 2015