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December 2003     Vol. 4, no. 12

Health care professionals

Diane Galarneau

  • Professionals made up 57% of all workers in the health sector in 2001. The majority (63%) were nurses, with physicians-general practitioners and specialists-far behind at 14%.
  • Full-year, full-time registered nurses had the largest gain in median income among professionals (8.0%). Because of their large number, this increase was a major factor in the 8.4% rise in the median income of all health professionals between 1990 and 2000. Licensed practical nurses had a modest 2.7% increase.
  • General practitioners and specialists are among the oldest professionals, because of a decline of enrolment in faculties of medicine and an increase in the number of years of postdoctoral study, as family medicine loses ground to specialized medicine. Also, physicians retire relatively late.
  • Between 1991 and 2001, women accounted for most (73%) of the increase in the physician workforce. This was particularly true for general practitioners, where women accounted for virtually all of the increase (98%).
  • The median annual earnings of women specialists working full year, full time were 44% less than the earnings of their male counterparts. While the gap was somewhat smaller for general practitioners, women still earned 20% less than men.
  • From 1990 to 2000, health workers saw their median annual earnings rise twice as much as those of other workers: 6.4% compared with 3.1%. Professionals stood out with the largest increase (15.1%), with much smaller gains for support personnel (7.9%).


Diane Galarneau is with the Labour and Household Surveys Analysis Division. She can be reached at (613) 951-4626 or

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