In October 2018, Specsavers commissioned a Deloitte Access Economics report into the future of the optometric workforce in Australia through until 2037.
The report modelled both the supply of, and demand for, optometric services over the coming two decades to identify whether the supply of optometrists was likely to exceed or fall short of demand, and if the latter, to examine barriers and facilitators to boosting the number of individuals practising optometry.
Deloitte Access Economics identified that stricter eligibility for government-funded eye tests, an increase in collaboration and multidisciplinary care, market growth through Specsavers and other growing optical brands, new optometry schools, and the increase of female optometrists are all impacting the supply and demand of optometric services, along with the ageing Australian demographic and the growing rate of private health insurance coverage.
The report calculated the number of practicing optometrists, the projected number of graduates and the anticipated amount of immigrant optometrists, and then measured it against temporary movements out of the workforce (e.g. for study, travel or parenting), deaths of optometrists and retirements. It found that overall, the projected number of full time optometrists will grow from 4,114 in 2018 to 6,653 in 2037.
The report then measured the projected demand, incorporating a forecasted 20% increase in service utilisation rates by 2037, income annual growth, population growth, a growing number of people with eye conditions and an auto regressive integrated moving average.
Overall it is expected that the number of optometric services demanded will grow from 9.4 million services in 2018 to almost 18.1 million by 2037. This equates to 555 services for every 1,000 population (up from 375 services for every 1,000 population).
Furthermore, it is expected that clinical hours demanded will grow from 7 million hours in 2018 to 13 million hours by 2037.
Finally, the number of FTE required to support the level of clinical demand is projected to grow from 4,234 in 2018 to 7,841 by 2037, highlighting that demand for optometry services will slowly but surely outstrip supply over the forecast period.

Supply of, and demand for, FTA optometrists in Australia, 2018-2037


A comparison between projections of supply and demand show that if we continue as we are tracking currently, we will end up with a shortfall of optometrists nationwide.
By 2028, Australia would need an additional 976 FTE optometrists, and by 2037 an additional 1,188 FTE optometrists, to meet demand for services, noting that these figures do not factor in any further changes in the scope of practice over the same period.
The shortfall in optometrists can in part, be explained by the continued feminisation of the workforce, with female optometrists expected to grow from 55.1% of the workforce in 2018 to 65.5% by 2037.
This continued shift will likely constrain the potential supply of clinical hours over time as, on average in 2016, female optometrists worked 6.7 hours per week less than male optometrists.
More remote and sparsely populated states such as Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, which are already experiencing a significant under-supply of optometrists, are projected to see these shortages steadily worsen.
Western Australia is projected to have the greatest increase in demand, with more than a 100% increase over the period although the introduction of a new Optometry School at UWA commencing 2021 will have a beneficial impact, depending on graduating numbers from the end of 2023 onwards
Urban areas will also see shortages of optometrists however, with the most populous states of New South Wales and Victoria likely seeing shortages over the next two decades.
On the other hand, the Australian Capital Territory will likely enjoy a surplus of optometrists due to its high population density.

Undersupply of FTEs by region, 2018-2037