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At 30 June 2002 there were an estimated 7.5 million households in Australia, which were home to 19.4 million Australians, or 98% of the resident population. Over the past 90 years the number of households has increased by an average 2.4% per year, compared to 1.6% average increase per year in the population over the same period. Reflecting the disproportionate growth in households is the fall in average size of households - from 4.5 persons per household in 1911 to 2.6 persons per household in 2002 (graph 5.47). Much of the decline in the number of persons per household over this period can be attributed to reductions in completed family size, and the associated increase in one- and two-person households over the period. The number of one-person households has grown largely from the ageing of the population, while a combination of ageing, increased childlessness among couples and an increase in the number of one-parent families has contributed to the increase in the number of two-person households.
Over the past decade there have been significant changes in the types of families in Australia. In 2001, of the 4.9 million families counted in the census there were 2.3 million couple families with children (47.0%). The number of families with this family type was the same at the time of the 1991 census but the proportion has declined, from 53.7%, as the number of all families has grown (from 4.3 million).
While families with children remained the most common family type in 2001, other family types have grown significantly in the last 10 years. Couple families without children increased by 30% from 1.4 million in 1991 to 1.8 million in 2001. These are comprised of couples who have not yet had children and also couples whose children have left home. One-parent families also increased, from 552,400 in 1991 to 762,600 in 2001, an increase of 38% (graph 5.48).
Household and family projections
Household and family projections are estimates of future numbers of households and families, based on assumptions about changing living arrangements of the population. The ABS has published three series of projections for the years 1996-2021. These series are based on varying assumptions about trends in living arrangements. In Series A the pattern of living arrangements of individuals is the same as in 1996. In Series B and C, recent trends in the patterns of living arrangements are incorporated into the projections. In Series B the average annual rate of change in living arrangements experienced between 1986 and 1996 is applied in reducing levels (in full between 1996 and 2001, in fractions to 2011, and then held constant to 2021). In Series C the rate of change experienced between 1986 and 1996 is applied in full throughout the projection period.
The projections show continuing growth in the number of households in Australia in the period 1996-2021. The number of households is projected to increase from 6.9 million in 1996 to between 9.4 and 10.0 million in 2021 (graph 5.49). This represents a growth in the number of households of between 38% and 46% between 1996 and 2021, compared to a projected 24% increase in the population over the same period.
Average household size in Australia is projected to decline from 2.6 persons in 1996 to between 2.2 and 2.3 persons per household in 2021. The projected decrease in average household size reflects the projected rise in the proportion of lone-person households and couples without children. Lone-person households are projected to grow by between 1.7% and 3.1% per year between 1996 and 2021 to comprise between one-quarter and one-third of all household types by 2021. The ageing of the population, increases in divorce and separation, and delaying marriage, are all contributing factors to the growth in lone-person households. While lone-person households are projected to grow the fastest of all household types, family households are projected to remain the predominant household type. Family households are projected to grow by between 0.9% and 1.2% per year over the 1996-2021 period, to comprise between 62% and 71% of all household types in 2021, compared to 73% of all households in 1996 (graph 5.50).
The number of couple families with children is projected to either grow slowly or decline slowly, depending on the series employed. This trend is related both to the rapid increase in couple families without children, and the increase in one-parent families, and is driven by ageing, the decline in fertility and increased marital break-up. In Series A, couple families with children are projected to grow from 2.5 million in 1996 to 3.1 million in 2021, while in Series C (full continuation of recent trends), couple families with children are projected to decline to 2.0 million in 2021 (table 5.51).
Of all family types, couple families without children are projected to increase most rapidly over the period 1996-2021. Couple families without children are projected to grow from 1.7 million in 1996 to between 2.7 and 2.9 million in 2021, with an average annual growth of between 1.7% and 2.2%. In Series B and C, couple families without children are projected to surpass couple families with children as the most common family type by the year 2016.
One-parent families are projected to increase from 742,000 families in 1996 to between 966,000 and 1.2 million in 2021, representing average annual growth of between 1.0% and 2.0% over the period. The proportion of female one-parent families, which was 85% of all one-parent families in 1996, is projected to slightly increase or decrease by 2021.