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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2002  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 09/05/2002   
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Contents >> Population >> Population Composition: Regional population ageing

Population Composition: Regional population ageing

Over the last 100 years, the proportion of the population aged 65 years and over has risen from 4% to 12%. It is projected to rise to about 18% by 2020.

Together with many other developed countries, Australia's population is ageing. Over the course of the 20th century, the proportion of people aged 65 years and over has tripled, from 4% in 1901 to 12% in 2001. It is projected that this growth will continue over the 21st century and by 2020, 18% of the population will be aged 65 years and over.1

Falling fertility, increased life expectancy and the redistribution of the population through internal migration have resulted in some parts of Australia ageing more rapidly than others. Similar to large scale population ageing, regional population ageing has implications for the provision of, and distribution of funding for, public services. For example, regions with a large number of older people may have a greater need for specialised health services, home help, public transport and smaller housing than regions with a younger population. This article highlights patterns of regional population ageing by examining the proportion of people aged 65 years and over across statistical local areas (SLAs).


Sources and definitions
This article uses data from the ABS 2000 Population Estimates by Age and Sex series, mainly at the Statistical Local Area level and, to a lesser extent, by Capital City/Balance of State.

Statistical Local Areas (SLAs) are geographical units which are used to collect and disseminate statistics. In non-census years, SLAs are the smallest unit of classification in the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC). In 2000, Australia had 1,331 SLAs.

The Capital City/Balance of State classification divides each State into two parts by combining SLAs which define a capital city into one geographical region, while the remaining SLAs together define the Balance of State. In this way, a broad comparison can be made between Australia's metropolitan and non-metropolitan regions.

For this article, older people are defined as those aged 65 years and over. Regions are considered to have an older age structure when 16% or more of the population is aged 65 years and over.


Causes of population ageing
A population can age numerically and structurally.2 Numerical ageing refers to an increase in the number of people aged 65 years and over in a population, while structural ageing refers to an increase in the proportion of people aged 65 years and over.

The primary cause of numerical ageing is declining mortality, which results in a large proportion of people living to an older age. A period of high fertility, such as Australia's 'baby boom', eventually contributes to numerical ageing, particularly if mortality remains low.

Structural ageing is mainly caused by declining fertility, which leads to a relatively small proportion of young people in a population compared with older people. Declining mortality leading to increased life expectancy plays a less important role in structural ageing.

In contrast to the main causes of population ageing, internal migration is the primary factor associated with regional ageing in Australia. A regional population will age if relatively large numbers of older people move into an area and/or young people leave an area. Because Australia's population is mobile (with 43% of the population changing their address between 1991 and 1996),3 fertility and mortality rates generally have less impact on ageing at the local level than the proportion and age structure of people entering or leaving an area.

AGEING ACROSS AUSTRALIAN STATES AND TERRITORIES - 2000

Units
NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Aust.

Proportion aged 65 years and over
%
12.8
12.8
11.5
14.5
10.7
13.6
3.5
8.3
12.3
    Capital city
%
11.7
12.1
10.9
14.5
10.9
13.5
4.0
8.3
11.8
    Balance of State
%
14.8
14.6
11.9
14.3
10.0
13.6
3.0
. .
13.3
Number aged 65 years and over
‘000
828.8
608.8
408.4
216.7
200.8
63.9
6.8
25.9
2,360.2
    Capital city
‘000
478.0
419.5
177.3
159.4
150.5
26.3
3.6
25.9
1,440.4
    Balance of State
‘000
350.8
189.4
231.1
57.3
50.3
37.7
3.2
. .
919.7
Median age
years
35.0
35.0
34.0
37.0
33.0
36.0
28.0
32.0
35.0
    Capital city
years
34.0
34.0
33.0
37.0
34.0
36.0
30.0
32.0
34.0
    Balance of State
years
37.0
36.0
35.0
37.0
33.0
36.0
27.0
. .
36.0

Source: ABS 2000 Population Estimates by Age and Sex, Australia.


Ageing across Australia
In 2000, much of Australia's population was clustered along the coast, extending further inland in the south-eastern parts of the continent than in the north or west. The majority of land mass in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia, and to a lesser extent, Queensland, was characterised by small populations with as few as 0.1 persons per square kilometre.4

Together with the rest of the population, older people were more likely to live in the south-eastern areas of Australia in 2000, extending from south-east Queensland, through the eastern half of New South Wales, throughout Victoria and into the south-east corner of South Australia, and the north and east coasts of Tasmania. Although older people were more likely to live in Australia's more populated regions than in other areas, the most densely populated regions (i.e. capital cities) did not have the highest proportions of older people.

The larger capital cities - Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane - tended to have slightly younger populations than their balances of State. This may reflect the educational and employment opportunities in capital cities which attract young and working-age people away from other areas, while the comparatively lower cost of living in non-metropolitan areas, including many coastal areas, both attracts and retains higher proportions of older people.

Darwin had a much younger population than any other capital city, but was slightly older than the balance of the Northern Territory in 2000. This largely reflects the high proportion of Indigenous people living in the Northern Territory and particularly outside Darwin.5 The Indigenous population has a younger age structure than the total population due to their high fertility and mortality rates (see Australian Social Trends 2000, Social conditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people).

PROPORTION OF PEOPLE AGED 65 YEARS AND OVER IN AUSTRALIAN SLAs - 2000

Source: ABS 2000 Population Estimates by Age and Sex, Australia.


Metropolitan areas
Variations in population age structure exist within all Australian cities, usually reflecting differences in the age of suburbs and more recent redevelopments in older suburbs, and the ensuing suitability and affordability of housing in these areas.

Most inner city areas in Australia are characterised by businesses, retail stores and increasingly, high density housing which is attractive to young working people without children. Surrounding these areas are SLAs often containing expensive real estate with favourable outlooks and access to the city. Beyond these are areas which were new suburbs a few decades ago. Many people bought in these areas when they were first developed and have grown older along with the area. On the outskirts of most capital cities are comparatively new suburbs, and areas which have only recently become incorporated as part of the city. These areas are characterised by recently developed and more affordable family housing which attracts younger families.

Sydney is a typical example of these patterns. Sydney's age structure is similar to the national average, although in 2000 there was no SLA within its boundary with more than 16% of its population aged 65 years and over. However, typical patterns of metropolitan population ageing were still apparent. The proportion of people aged 65 years and over tended to be higher in the band of SLAs where suburbs were developed during the mid-20th century. Examples of these SLAs include Ryde and Ku-ring-gai in northern Sydney (14% and 15% respectively), Strathfield (15%) to the west of the city and Rockdale (just under 16%) in the south.

By contrast, older people were less likely to live in the inner city SLAs of Sydney-Inner and Sydney-Remainder, which had fewer than 9% of people aged 65 years and over. The proportion of older people in the SLAs immediately surrounding inner Sydney was close to the Australian average (12%). Examples include North Sydney (12%), Leichhardt (10%), South Sydney (10%) and Randwick (13%). SLAs such as Auburn and Hornsby, located towards outer Sydney (although becoming more central as Sydney expands) had proportions of older people similar to the national average (11% and 12% respectively).

The proportion of older people living on the outskirts of Sydney was similar to the proportion living in inner Sydney. For example, 7% of people in Penrith and 6% of people in Campbelltown were aged 65 years and over. The main difference between the age structures of inner and outer Sydney - despite these areas having similar proportions of older people - was the proportion of children. Over 20% of people living in outer Sydney SLAs were aged less than 15 years, compared with 8% in inner Sydney.

PROPORTION OF PEOPLE AGED 65 YEARS AND OVER IN SYDNEY SLAs - 2000

Source: ABS 2000 Population Estimates by Age and Sex, Australia.


Inland non-metropolitan areas
In 2000, non-metropolitan regions in Australia had older populations than metropolitan regions overall. Many of the 'older' inland SLAs (those SLAs with at least 16% of their population aged 65 years and over) were located in the wheat-sheep belt to the west of the Great Dividing Range, extending from west of Spencer Gulf in South Australia, across to western Victoria (particularly surrounding Horsham), and along the Murray River into New South Wales. There were more older SLAs just north of Wagga Wagga from Coolamon to Coonabarabran, up to Bingara and into south-east Queensland, ending inland from Hervey Bay.

Remote parts of inland Australia tend to have a very small population. People who did live in remote Australia in 2000 were more likely to be younger than older. This young age structure is largely due to employment opportunities in these areas (where agricultural, mining or pastoral industries are common) and is also affected by the disproportionate number of Indigenous Australians who live in remote areas.4

Ageing on the coast
A century ago, most Australians lived either in capital cities (32%) or in 'the bush' (61%), with around 7% living on the coastline in non-metropolitan areas.6 In contrast, almost 20% of Australians lived in coastal towns and cities other than capital cities in 2000.

In South Australia, older coastal SLAs (those with at least 16% of their population aged 65 years and over) extended along both sides of Spencer Gulf and Yorke Peninsula, to Victor Harbor, south of Adelaide. In Victoria, older populations were located along the coastline of Port Phillip Bay, and the south- east coast of Victoria from South Gippsland to East Gippsland at the New South Wales border. This trend continued along the south coast of New South Wales to Kiama, south of Sydney. Many parts of the north coast of New South Wales also had a high proportion of older residents, with most SLAs from Gosford to Hervey Bay in Queensland having more than 13% of their populations aged 65 years and over, and many of them, more than 16%.

In comparison, the sparsely populated coastal areas of northern Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia had relatively young populations in 2000. Exceptions were parts of Townsville in northern Queensland and Shark Bay, Mandurah and Albany Central in Western Australia, which had at least 16% of their populations aged 65 years and over.

PROPORTION OF PEOPLE AGED 65 YEARS AND OVER IN SLAs ALONG COASTAL SOUTH-EASTERN AUSTRALIA - 2000

Source: ABS 2000 Population Estimates by Age and Sex, Australia.


Projected population ageing
Population projections show that by 2019, around 18% of Australia’s population is likely to be aged 65 years and over, compared with the current level of around 12%. While it is expected that Tasmania will be the State with the oldest population, older populations are expected to continue to be situated in SLAs along the coast, particularly in Queensland. Of the SLAs with the highest projected proportions of people aged 65 years and over, 12 out of 18 are likely to be along the coast, with 7 of these in Queensland.

The SLA with the oldest population in Australia in 2019 is projected to be Bribie Island on the Queensland coast, with 37% of its residents aged 65 years and over. This is an increase of 9 percentage points from current levels, and almost 20 percentage points higher than the projected national average.

Bilinga in Queensland is projected to continue to be the second-oldest SLA in Australia, with 35% of its population aged 65 years and over in 2019. Victor Harbor in South Australia, currently the oldest SLA, is projected to have 33% of its population aged 65 years and over, making it the third oldest SLA in 2019.

Altogether 170 SLAs are projected to have one-quarter or more of their population aged 65 years and over in 2019. Over the projection period, the number of people in this age group is projected to double in 370 SLAs. This presents challenges for many regions in terms of meeting the needs of the rapidly growing older population.

PROJECTED 'OLDEST' SLA(a) POPULATIONS IN AUSTRALIA - 2019

Proportion aged 65 years and over

1999
2019
Statistical Local Area
State
Region(b)
%
%

Bribie Island
Qld
C
28.2
36.8
Bilinga
Qld
C
28.6
35.2
Victor Harbor
SA
C
29.0
33.3
Runaway Bay
Qld
C
20.2
32.3
Paradise Point
Qld
C
24.8
32.3
Mornington Peninsula South
Vic.
C
16.5
32.0
Strathbogie
Vic.
I
20.3
31.9
Mannum
SA
I
20.2
31.8
Hollywell
Qld
C
20.4
30.8
Barraba
NSW
I
21.5
30.6
Redcliffe Scarborough
Qld
C
21.9
30.4
Hindmarsh
Vic.
I
21.6
30.3
Brighton
SA
C/M
20.1
30.3
Bass Coast Balance
Vic.
C
21.9
30.2
Sandgate
Qld
C/M
24.6
30.1
Great Lakes
NSW
C
24.8
30.1
Fisher
ACT
M
12.6
30.1
Upper Mount Gravatt
Qld
M
20.5
30.1
Total Australia
12.2
17.6

(a) Uses 1996 SLA boundaries and excludes SLAs with fewer than 1000 people.
(b) ‘C’=coastal; ‘I’=inland; and ‘M’=metropolitan.

Source: ABS Population Projections for Statistical Local Areas 1999-2019.


Endnotes
1 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2000, Population Projections, Australia, 1999 to 2101, cat. no. 3222.0, ABS, Canberra.

2 Jackson, N. 1999, 'Understanding population ageing: a background', Australian Social Policy, vol.1, pp. 203-224.

3 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1996, Population Growth and Distribution, 1996, cat. no. 2035.0, ABS, Canberra.

4 Bureau of Rural Sciences (BRS) 1999, Country Matters: Social Atlas of Rural and Regional Australia, BRS, Canberra.

5 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2000, Regional Statistics, Northern Territory, 2000, cat. no. 1362.7, ABS, Canberra.

6 Salt, B. 2001, The Big Shift: Welcome to the Third Australian Culture: The Bernard Salt Report, Hardie Grant Books, Victoria.


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