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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2005  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/07/2005   
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Contents >> Population >> Future Living Arrangements

Future Living Arrangements

POPULATION PROJECTIONS

The number of people living alone is projected to increase from 1.8 million in 2001 to between 2.8 million (Series I) and 3.7 million (Series III) in 2026 - an increase of between 57% and 105%.

Families provide emotional, physical and financial care and support to their members and are often the basis on which government assistance is determined and administered. Australians have traditionally experienced three main living arrangements over a lifecycle: living with parents, living with a partner (for some of this period with children) and living alone in old age if that partner died. Now and into the future, living arrangements throughout a lifecycle may also include living alone or in a group household before perhaps forming a long-term partnership, or living as a lone parent or alone after divorce or separation. These changes in living arrangements and family characteristics are the outcome of various demographic and social trends, such as declining fertility, increased rates of divorce and longer life expectancy.

Current interest in family is reflected in policy aiming to support and strengthen families and to lower the incidence of family breakdown. (endnote 1) Future changes in family and household composition will have implications in a number of areas including housing, income support, accommodation provision and aged care, as well as health and family services.


PAST TRENDS

Although the proportion declined over the period, the majority of Australians were living as part of a couple family with children at the time of the 1986 and 2001 censuses (60% of Australians in 1986 compared with 52% in 2001). Conversely, the proportion of people living in one-parent families increased from 9% to 12%. The proportion of people living as partners in couple families without children increased from 17% in 1986 to 20% in 2001. This trend is partly due to the deferment of childbearing and the ageing of the population with the subsequent increase in the number of ‘empty nesters’. The proportion of people living alone has increased from 7% of the population in 1986 to 9% in 2001. The proportion of people living in a group household showed little change between 1986 and 2001 (around 3% of the population).


Household and family projections

This article is based on ABS population projections spanning the period 2001 to 2026. The base population for the projections is the estimated resident population at 30 June 2001.

The ABS produces three main series (A, B and C) of population projections based on assumptions about future fertility, mortality and migration. The ABS uses the projected population size, age structure and geographic distribution from Series B as the basis for projections of households, families and living arrangements in Australia.

The projections are not intended as predictions or forecasts, but are illustrations of growth and change in the numbers of households and families which would occur if the assumptions about future trends in living arrangements prevail over the projection period from 2001 to 2026.
Trends in the propensities of people to belong to different living arrangement types were observed over the last four censuses between 1986 and 2001. Three different assumptions were made about the future rate of change in these propensities. Based on these different assumptions, three projections series for households and families have been produced.

Assumptions used

Series I No change in living arrangement propensities from 2001
Series II The linear trend observed from 1986 to 2001 continues at the full rate to 2006, half the rate to 2011, one quarter of the rate to 2016 then remains constant through to 2026
Series III Continuation of 1986 to 2001 rate of change in living arrangement propensities through to 2026

Source: Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2001 to 2026 (ABS cat. no. 3236.0).

Household and family projections

Graph: Household projectionsGraph: Family projections

Source: Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2001 to 2026 (ABS cat. no. 3236.0).


SERIES I, II AND III

The ABS uses trends in the proportions of people in different living arrangements over the last four censuses to develop projections of households and families. These trends are projected forward and applied to the projected population (Series B) to produce numbers of households and families to 2026 (Series I, II and III). In Series I, it is assumed that the proportion of people in specific living arrangements (such as one-parent families) will remain constant from 2001 to 2026. Series III assumes that the rate of change seen between 1986 and 2001 will continue through to 2026. Series II assumes the rate of change in living arrangement propensities will be greater than series I but not as great as series III.


HOUSEHOLD PROJECTIONS

In 2001, Australia had 7.4 million households with an average size of 2.6 persons per household. In 2026 Australia is projected to have between 10.2 and 10.8 million households (Series I and Series III respectively) with a decrease in average household size to between 2.2 and 2.3 persons per household.

Most of the change from 2001 to 2026 is projected to be in the numbers of people living alone and the numbers of family households. As living in a group household tends to be a temporary arrangement, these households are expected to account for a small proportion of the population (between 3% and 4%). Also, with current government policy encouraging people to live in their own homes as they age (endnote 2), the proportion of people living in non-private dwellings is also projected to remain low (between 1% and 2%).

TYPES OF HOUSEHOLDS

2026
2001
Series I
Series II
Series III
Household type
‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000

Family households
5 269.0
7 030.1
6 920.0
6 714.9
Group households
293.2
345.7
371.5
403.6
Lone person households
1 805.3
2 842.0
3 149.4
3 693.0
Total number of households
7 367.5
10 217.9
10 440.9
10 811.5

Source: Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2001 to 2026 (ABS cat. no. 3236.0).

Household and family types

Lone person household is a household formed by a person who makes provision for his or her food and other essentials for living without combining with any other person to form part of a multi-person household.

Group household
consists of two or more unrelated people where all people are aged 15 years and over. There are no reported couple relationships, parent-child relationships or other blood relationships in these households.

Family households are households which contain one or more families.

Families refer to related individuals usually resident in the same household. There are three main types, listed below.

Couple family with children are based on two persons who are in a registered or de facto marriage and who are usually resident in the same household. The family must include one or more children, of any age, usually resident in the same household.

Couple family without children are based on two persons who are in a registered or de facto marriage and who are usually resident in the same household and have no children usually resident in the same household

One-parent families
are based on a lone parent who has no spouse or partner resident in the household but who forms a parent-child relationship with at least one child, of any age, usually resident in the household.

Families can also include other related individuals such as grandparents, cousins, nieces or nephews.


LONE PERSON HOUSEHOLDS

The number of people living alone is projected to increase from 1.8 million in 2001 to between 2.8 million (Series I) and 3.7 million (Series III) in 2026 - an increase of between 57% and 105%. This large projected increase is related to rapid population growth in older age groups, delayed marriage and increase in divorce and separation.

In all three series, women account for more than half of the number of people living alone (between 54% in Series III and 59% in Series I). This reflects the greater number of women than men in older age groups as a result of womens' longer life expectancy. While women are more likely to live alone in old age, men have a tendency to live alone in younger age groups. The effects of separation and divorce, where men are less likely to be the resident parent (see Australian Social Trends 2003, Changing families) contributes to the numbers of younger men who live alone. In 2001, men and women aged 65 and over comprised 37% of lone person households. This proportion is expected to increase to between 41% (Series III) and 50% (Series I).

PEOPLE LIVING IN LONE PERSON HOUSEHOLDS

2026
2001
Series I
Series II
Series III
Living arrangement
‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000

Male lone person aged under 65 years
630.8
766.8
908.6
1 188.6
Male lone person aged 65 years and over
188.6
397.3
440.1
505.1
Female lone person aged under 65 years
498.9
641.5
750.3
973.0
Female lone person aged 65 years and over
487.0
1 036.4
1 050.3
1 026.3
Total number of people in lone person households
1 805.3
2 842.0
3 149.4
3 693.0

%
%
%
%
Proportion of all Australians in lone person households
9.3
11.7
13.0
15.3

Source: Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2001 to 2026 (ABS cat. no. 3236.0).


FAMILY HOUSEHOLDS

Between 2001 and 2026 the number of family households is projected to increase more slowly (by between 27% and 33%) than the number of households (by 39% to 47%). The difference is related to faster growth in lone person households. The number of families in Australia is projected to increase from 5.3 million in 2001 to between 6.8 and 7.1 million in 2026 (using Series III and Series I respectively. However, there are substantial differences by family type across the three projection series.

...couple families

Between 2001 and 2026 the number of couple families with children is projected to increase only slowly in Series I and Series II but to decrease in Series III. This reflects the assumption in Series III that we will continue to move away from this family type at the same rate of change as we have from 1986 to 2001, more quickly than in Series I and II. Conversely, couples without children are projected to increase quite rapidly from 1.9 million in 2001 to between 2.9 and 3.3 million in 2026. This increase in couple only families is in part related to the movement of the ‘baby boom’ cohort into the older age groups where their children are likely to have left home.

The proportion of Australians living in a couple family with children is projected to decrease from 52% in 2001 to between 35% (Series III) and 46% (Series I) by 2026. Conversely, the proportion of Australians living as couples without children is projected to increase from 20% in 2001 to between 25% (Series I) and 28% (Series III) by 2026. The proportion of people living in one-parent families (12% in 2001) is projected to decrease slightly in Series I (10%), to stay the same in Series II (12%), but to increase in Series III (15%).

These projections are not only a reflection of the ageing population but also of couples having no children or smaller families, resulting in people spending more time living in couple only families both before and after they have children. An increase in marital break up and one-parent families also results in a decline in couple families with children.

TYPES OF FAMILIES

2026
2001
Series I
Series II
Series III
Family type
‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000

Couple families with children of any age
2 491.5
2 976.3
2 610.3
2 010.4
With at least one child under 15 years
1 733.1
2 070.3
1 815.6
1 398.4
With children 15 years and over only
758.5
906.1
794.6
612.0
Couple families without children
1 917.6
2 948.6
3 108.1
3 312.0
One-parent families
838.2
1 082.3
1 192.3
1 369.3
With at least one child under 15 years
483.2
624.0
687.4
789.4
With children 15 years and over only
354.9
458.3
504.9
579.8
Other families
98.7
126.3
111.2
122.2
Total number of families
5 346.0
7 133.5
7 021.8
6 813.9

Source: Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2001 to 2026 (ABS cat. no. 3236.0).

PEOPLE LIVING IN COUPLE FAMILIES

2026
2001
Series I
Series II
Series III
Living arrangement
‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000

Couple family with children
Husband, wife or partner
4 983.1
5 952.7
5 220.5
4 020.8
Child aged 0-14 years
3 232.1
3 075.2
2 909.1
2 534.3
Child aged 15 years or over
1 770.5
1 832.7
1 871.9
1 885.3
Other related individual
102.1
162.5
113.3
66.1
Couple family without children
Husband, wife or partner
3 835.2
5 897.2
6 216.2
6 623.9
Other related individual
59.4
93.3
77.6
67.3
Total number of people in couple families
13 982.4
17 013.6
16 408.6
15 197.7

%
%
%
%

Proportion of all Australians in couple families with children
52.0
45.5
41.8
35.1
Proportion of all Australians in couple families without children
20.1
24.8
26.0
27.6

Source: Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2001 to 2026 (ABS cat. no. 3236.0).

PEOPLE LIVING IN ONE-PARENT FAMILIES

2026
2001
Series I
Series II
Series III
Living arrangement
‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000

One-parent family
Female lone parent
698.4
894.1
989.6
1 146.1
Male lone parent
139.8
188.2
202.7
223.2
Child aged 0-14 years
744.5
707.1
875.1
1 252.3
Child aged 15-24 years
367.7
374.2
429.8
534.6
Child aged 25 years or over
232.2
270.3
300.5
343.5
Other related individual
62.0
89.7
93.6
100.3
Total number of people in one-parent families
2 244.5
2 523.6
2 891.3
3 600.0

%
%
%
%

Proportion of all Australians in one-parent families
11.6
10.4
11.9
14.9

Source: Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2001 to 2026 (ABS cat. no. 3236.0).

HOUSEHOLDS IN STATES AND TERRITORIES

2026
2001
Series I
Series II
Series III
State or territory
‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000

New South Wales
2 454.7
3 258.0
3 310.3
3 390.7
Victoria
1 817.2
2 446.9
2 490.4
2 565.0
Queensland
1 382.8
2 254.5
2 319.6
2 431.1
South Australia
613.0
716.3
736.9
771.5
Western Australia
724.2
1 079.6
1 108.3
1 158.2
Tasmania
191.6
214.8
222.8
235.8
Northern Territory
62.8
88.9
90.1
91.2
Australian Capital Territory
120.3
157.7
161.3
166.7
Australia
7 367.5
10 217.9
10 440.9
10 811.5

Source: Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2001 to 2026 (ABS cat. no. 3236.0).

...one-parent families

One-parent families are projected to increase by between 29% and 63% from 838,000 families in 2001 to between 1.1 million (Series I) and 1.4 million (Series III) in 2026. In 2001, the number of female one-parent families was around five times that of male one-parent families and this relativity is projected to continue.

In 2001, over half of one-parent families were lone parents living with at least one child aged less than 15 years (58%). Other one-parent families included those with older dependent children (i.e. those aged 15-24 and still in full-time education) or much older children living with their aged parent. In 2001, the lone parent in 13% of one-parent families was aged 65 years or over and many in this group would be older parents living with their adult children.

In 2001, there were 2.2 million people in Australia living in one-parent families. This is projected to increase to between 2.5 million and 3.6 million people by 2026, an increase from 11% to 15% of the population. The number of female lone parents is projected to increase from 698,000 in 2001 to between 894,000 and 1.1 million in 2026 - an increase of between 28% and 64%.

...children

The number of children aged 0-14 years in Australia is projected to decrease slightly (from around 4.0 million in 2001 to 3.8 million in 2026 using Series B projections).

The number of children aged 0-14 years living in two-parent families is projected to decrease in all three series (from 3.2 million in 2001 to between 2.5 million and 3.1 million in 2026). In 2001, there were 745,000 children aged 0-14 in one-parent families. In Series I this number is projected to decline to around 707,000, while in Series II and III the number is projected to increase to between 875,000 and 1.3 million respectively.


STATE/TERRITORY PROJECTIONS

The states and territories which are projected to experience high population growth between 2001 and 2026 are also projected to have faster household growth. Queensland is projected to have the fastest household growth from 1.4 million households in 2001 to between 2.3 and 2.4 million households in 2026 (an increase of between 63% and 76%). Western Australia is projected to experience the second highest household growth in Australia increasing from 724,000 households in 2001 to between 1.1 and 1.2 million households in 2026 (an increase of between 49% and 60%).

Tasmania’s household growth is projected to be the slowest of all states and territories from 192,000 in 2001 to between 215,000 and 236,000 (an increase of between 12% and 23%), reflecting the longer-term population decline projected for the state.


ENDNOTES

1 Department of Family and Community Services <http://www.facs.gov.au/internet/facsinternet.nsf/aboutfacs/whatwedo.htm>, accessed 23 November 2004.

2
Department of Health and Ageing, <http://www.health.gov.au/>, accessed 6 June 2005.


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