Nov 21, 2018 07:09 PM

Chart of the Day: China’s Unhealthy Shortage of Doctors

China’s number of doctors is on the rise, but supply is still way behind the country’s soaring demand for health care.


From 2013 to 2017, the number of physicians in China increased from 2.06 per 1,000 people to 2.44. The number of general practitioners (GPs) per 10,000 people went from 1.07 to 1.82 during the same period, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

But despite the increase, the country is facing a serious GP shortage. In 2016, residents visited doctors 7.8 billion times, while there were only 209,000 registered GPs. In January, the central government pledged to increase the number of GPs to 300,000 by 2020. As the country ages and incomes grow, demand for health care is rapidly increasing.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) club of rich countries put China at the bottom of a list that ranks countries’ number of certified doctors. Its “Health at a Glance 2017” report shows that China had fewer practicing doctors than the OECD average. Greece has the highest number of doctors per capita — 6.6 per 10,000 — while China’s figure is similar to those of Brazil, Turkey and Columbia.

Many Chinese media outlets have reported widespread burnout among doctors. Doctors in China are paid significantly less than their counterparts in the West and work longer hours. Violence against doctors by patients and their family members is also a serious problem.

Contact reporter Charlotte Yang (

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