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Nursing has overtaken building as the third most common non-school qualification in Australia, behind business and management and teacher education according to 2021 Census data released this week.

The 2021 Census counted over 260,000 registered nurses. There were an additional 96,000 people with a nursing qualification, representing 19% growth since 2016, exceeding the 13% growth of the broader workforce. Females held 91% of nursing qualifications.

“Census data shows over 40% of registered nurses and aged and disability carers were born overseas, with almost 40,000 arriving since 2016. A 40% share born overseas is significantly higher than the average across all occupations of 32% born overseas,” Dr David Gruen AO, Australian Statistician said.

While females made up the majority of people employed as registered nurses (88%) and aged and disabled carers (77%), the share of males working in these roles had increased slightly since 2016.

In 2021, 12% of registered nurses were males, compared with 11% in 2016. For aged and disability carers, the percentage of males increased to 23% from 20%.

The median weekly income for full-time male Registered Nurses is $1,802 compared to $1,631 for females.

The number carers working in the aged and disabled sector was 227,535 in 2021, up by 72% since 2016. The sector had experienced one of the strongest growths compared to all occupations. For aged and disability carers, the median weekly income for full-time males is $1,254 and $1,114 for females.

Census data also showed an increase in mental health professionals, with psychologists and psychiatrists both increasing over 40% since 2016.

Overall, the data showed one in seven people in the Australian workforce were working in the healthcare and social assistance industry.

“There are now over 1.7 million people working in healthcare and social assistance in Australia, of which 30% are working in hospitals,” Dr Gruen said.