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Eastern Europe leads the developed world in female doctors

Reuters/Jim Young
In good hands.
By Richard Macauley
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Estonia is home to the highest rate of female doctors among developed economies, according to a study (pdf) by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Almost three in four doctors in the eastern European nation is female, according to the research, far exceeding the UK’s 46% and the US’s 34%. European countries as a whole dominate the leaderboard for the proportion of women in healthcare:

Further good news is that the study, which focused on the largely rich, developed nations within the OECD, found that the rates of female doctors in the workforce rose in the majority of countries between 2000 and 2013 (pdf, page 83).

High rates of female doctors are certainly good news for gender equality, but the figures don’t tell the whole story. US data shows that female doctors there are likely to be paid less than their male counterparts, and are more likely to drop out of the field than men. Solutions are still needed to fix these issues.

An increasing number of female doctors could also change the way healthcare is organized. Female doctors are more likely to request part-time schedules than male doctors, and that has some groups, like the UK’s National Health Service, scratching their heads about how to adapt.

The OECD report suggests that men and women’s work schedules are converging, however. And aside from rethinking their approach to a standard doctor’s working routine, most OECD countries have a bigger problem ahead: The average age of doctors in almost all of the countries surveyed is increasing.

On average, 33% of physicians in the countries monitored were over 55 years old in 2013, up from around 20% in 2000. In some countries, such as Italy and Israel, almost half of all doctors were over 55, the study found. In 2000, those countries were around 20% and 30%, respectively.

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