What Factors Influence the Earnings of GPs and Medical Specialists in Australia? Evidence from the MABEL Survey

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 12/10

Date: July 2010


Terence Chai Cheng
Anthony Scott
Sung-Hee Jeon
Guyonne Kalb
John Humphreys
Catherine Joyce


To date, there has been little data or empirical research on the determinants of doctors’ earnings despite earnings having an important role in influencing the cost of health care, decisions on workforce participation and labour supply. This paper examines the determinants of annual earnings of general practitioners and specialists using the first wave of the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL), a new longitudinal survey of doctors in Australia. For both GPs and specialists, earnings are higher for men, for those who are self-employed, who do after hours or on-call work, and who work in areas with a high cost of living. GPs have higher earnings if they work in larger practices, in outer regional or rural areas, and in areas with lower GP density, whilst specialists earn more if they are a fellow of their college, have more working experience, spend more time in clinical work, have less complex patients, or work in inner regional areas. Overall, GPs earn about 32% less than specialists. The returns from on-call work, experience, and self-employment are higher for specialists compared to GPs.

Download Paper