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Med Educ. 2001 May;35(5):488-94.

Issues of intervention aimed at preventing prospective surplus of physicians in Japan.

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Department of Health Economics and Policy, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan.



In Japan, regulatory intervention aimed at preventing a prospective surplus of physicians is an important medical issue. The study committees organized by the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) in 1986, 1993 and 1998, concluded that the number of physicians would exceed demand for their services in the future. As a result, the government planned to reduce the number of medical students. However, MHW has not been successful in the intervention so far, as shown by the fact that their initial plan for a 10% reduction in the number of students enrolled in medical school has not been attained. In this paper, we examine why the MHW policy failed.


We reviewed those forecasts performed by past MHW study committees and examined whether the government policy of controlling physician training was appropriate. Additionally, we did a preliminary projection of specialty-specific demand for physician services as a reference for future physician manpower policies in Japan.


We found that both conflicts among various interest groups and a lack of precise projections of physician services hampered the proper formation and implementation of a physician manpower policy in Japan.


It might be necessary to examine the appropriateness of the MHW policy in reducing the overall number of students enrolled in medical schools. As a first step in formulating and implementing a physician manpower policy, we should begin to consolidate the necessary data to conduct precise and proper projections of future physician demand.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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