Australian Bureau of Statistics
3222.0 - Population Projections, Australia, 2002 to 2101
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 02/09/2003
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The population projections presented in this publication span the period from June 2002 to June 2101 for Australia and from June 2002 to June 2051 for the states, territories, capital cities and balances of state.
These projections are not intended as predictions or forecasts, but as illustrations of growth and change in the population which would occur if certain assumptions about future levels of fertility, mortality and net overseas migration (NOM) were to prevail over the projection period.
This Chapter outlines the projection results, in terms of population size and growth, and the changing age structure and distribution of the population. It also previews some more extreme population scenarios analysed in Chapter 4, 'What if...?'. These results are derived from various combinations of the assumptions. From the 54 series produced, three main series are selected.
POPULATION SIZE AND GROWTH
Australia's estimated resident population (ERP) at June 2002 of 19.7 million is projected to grow to between 23.0 million and 31.4 million in 2051, and to between 18.9 million and 37.7 million in 2101. Growth will be highest under Series A and lowest under Series C.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Australia's annual population growth rate has been in excess of 1%. In part this is due to natural increase, or an excess of births over deaths. In 2001-02, there were 246,300 births and 130,500 deaths in Australia, contributing 115,900 people through natural increase.
Projections indicate that deaths will exceed births in the future, leading to a state of natural decrease from between 2029–30 (Series C) and 2070-71 (Series A). Therefore, while growth will continue at around its current rate for the next 4-15 years (except under Series C), it will slow throughout the remainder of the projection period, as NOM increasingly becomes the main source of growth. Growth will eventually become negative some time between 2040 (Series C) and 2070 (Series B), as NOM fails to compensate for natural decrease.
The ageing of Australia's population, which is already evident in the current age structure, will continue. This is the inevitable result of sustained low fertility combined with increasing life expectancy at birth. The median age at June 2002 of 35.9 years will increase to between 40.4 years (Series A) and 42.3 years (Series C) in 2021 and between 46.0 (Series A) and 49.9 years (Series C) in 2051.
The ageing of the population affects the entire age structure of the population. By June 2051, there will be a greater proportion of people aged 65 years and over, and a lower proportion of people aged under 15 years than in 2002. The proportion of the population aged under 15 years is projected to fall from 20% at June 2002, to between 12% (Series C) and 15% (Series A) in 2051 and between 12% (Series C) and 15% (Series A) in 2101. The proportion of the population aged 65 years and over will increase from 13% at June 2002 to between 27% (Series B) and 30% (Series C) in 2051, and between 29% (Series B) and 32% (Series C) in 2101.
Those aged 85 years and over made up 1.4% of the total population at June 2002. Under all main series, this group is projected to grow to between 2%–3% by 2021. In 2051, this group will represent between 6%-9% of the total population, and in 2101, between 7%-11%.
What if ...?
The two factors which have the greatest impact on future national population growth are fertility and overseas migration. The level of fertility affects not only population size and growth, but also the age distribution of the population. Net overseas migration affects the size of the population more than its age structure.
Holding mortality and NOM constant at the levels specified under the medium projection series1, a change in the assumed total fertility rate (TFR) of just 0.1 births per woman would result in the population being almost one million larger or smaller in 2051, and more than two million larger or smaller by 2101. Under the high (TFR=1.8) and low (TFR=1.4) fertility assumptions, the median age could increase from 35.9 years at June 2002 to between 44.3 years and 49.3 years in 2051 respectively.
Assuming fertility and mortality remain at the levels specified under the medium projections series2, an increase of just 1,000 NOM per year from 2006, from 100,000 (as in Series B) to 101,000, would add 58,900 to Australia's population by 2051 and 114,800 by 2101. If there were no NOM from 2002 and a TFR of 1.6, the population would peak at 21.3 million in 2029 before declining to 19.8 million in 2051 and 13.5 million in 2101. Even large differences in NOM have a relatively small impact on the age distribution. Varying the level of NOM from 50,000 to 150,000 per year changes the median age of the population in 2051 from 47.7 years to 46.1 years respectively, a difference of 1.6 years.
Population targets suggested for Australia have ranged as low as 6 million and as high as 50 million people (McDonald and Kippen 1999)3. Given current levels of fertility, and historical levels of migration, such targets are impossible to reach within the foreseeable future.
Interstate migration is probably the most difficult component to measure in Australia's population estimation process. The movement of people between the states and territories of Australia is unrestricted and depends on many factors such as varying economic opportunities, overseas immigration and settlement patterns, and lifestyle choices of their populations. As fluctuations in these factors cannot be foreseen, the trends and levels of past net interstate migration are used for the projections.
Series B projects population increase over the next 50 years in all states and territories, except Tasmania and South Australia. Between June 2002 and June 2051, the population of the Northern Territory will increase by 55%, Queensland by 73% and Western Australia by 49%, well above the growth projected for Australia (34%). The distribution of Australia's population is therefore projected to be noticeably different in 50 years' time.
Changing state/territory share
Under Series B, New South Wales is projected to remain the most populous state in Australia, while Victoria will be replaced by Queensland as the second most populous state. Western Australia will increase its share of Australia's population, while South Australia's and Tasmania's shares will decline under this Series.
Capital city growth and share
Under Series B, all of the capital cities will experience larger percentage growth than their respective balances, resulting in the further concentration of Australia's population within the capital cities. At June 2002, 64% of Australians lived in capital cities, but by 2051, this proportion will increase to 67%. Sydney and Melbourne will remain the two most populous cities in Australia at 5.7 million and 4.8 million respectively in 2051. In this series the population of Darwin will exceed that of Hobart from 2045.
POPULATION SIZE, Observed and projected ('000)
1 The medium series, Series B, assumes life expectancy at birth of 84.2 years for males and 87.7 years for females by 2050-51, and NOM of 100,000 persons per year from 2005-06.
2 The medium series, Series B, assumes a TFR of 1.6 from 2011 and life expectancy at birth of 84.2 years for males and 87.7 years for females by 2050-51.
3 McDonald, P and Kippen, R 1999 'Population Futures for Australia: the Policy Alternatives' Parliamentary Library Research Paper 5 1999-2000.
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This page last updated 20 June 2006