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3101.0 - Australian Demographic Statistics, Jun 1999  
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Special Article - Australia's Older Population: Past, Present and Future (Jun, 1999)


This article was published in Australian Demographic Statistics, June Quarter 1999 (ABS Catalogue number 3101.0)

EMBARGO: 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) WED 8 DECEMBER 1999


POPULATION GROWTH

The proportion of the Australian population aged 65 years and over (the older population) has grown steadily during the 20th century and it is projected to grow further during the 21st century. The major contributors to ageing of the population have been declining fertility and increased life expectancy.

In 1901 there were 151 thousand people aged 65 years and over living in Australia, comprising 4% of the total Australian population. By 1998 this number increased to 2.3 million or 12% of the total population. It is projected that by 2051 the older population would have grown to between 6 million and 6.3 million or around one-quarter (24%-26%) of the projected total population of Australia.

During the first half of the 21st century the number of people aged 85 and over is projected to increase more than four-fold, reaching between 1.1 million and 1.2 million by 2051. The proportion of the population aged 85 years and over will also increase, from 1% to 5% of the total population.

AUSTRALIAN POPULATION

Aged 65 and over
Aged 85 and over
Total population
'000
% of total population
'000
% of 65 and
over population
% of total population
'000

    1901
150.8
4.0
4.2
2.8
0.1
3 788.1
    1998
2,283.4
12.2
227.6
10.0
1.2
18,751.0
    2051(a)
6,027.3
24.2
1,134.8
18.8
4.5
24,944.7

          (a) Series II projections, Population Projections, Australia 1997 to 2051 (ABS Cat. no. 3222.0).

          Source: ABS, Australian Demographic Statistics (Cat. no. 3101.0)
INTERNATIONAL COMPARISON

Australia's population age-structure follows a similar pattern to that found throughout the developed world. Along with Canada, New Zealand and the United States, Australia has a lower level of ageing than many European countries. In 1995, 12% of Australians were aged 65 years and over compared with 18% in Sweden, 17% in Italy, and 16% in the United Kingdom and Greece. Other countries (especially many in the Asia/Pacific region) have lower proportions of older people than Australia.


GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION

The proportion of older people in the Australian population differs by State. In 1998, the State with the highest proportion of people aged 65 years and over was South Australia (14%), followed by Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria (each 13%). Both the Territories have younger population structures, with older people comprising 3% of all people in the Northern Territory and 8% in the Australian Capital Territory.

Over the next 50 years the proportion of the older population is projected to increase in every State and Territory. Tasmania is projected to overtake South Australia as the State with the largest proportion of older people (30%-39% compared with 28%-32%). The proportion of older people in the Australian Capital Territory is projected to approach that in the other States. The Northern Territory, however, is projected to have a noticeably younger population, with 9%-11% of its population aged 65 years and over compared with 24%-26% of the total Australian population in 2051.

The majority of Australians live within 50 kilometres of the coastline, but older people are likely to live closer to the coast. In 1996, 32% of people aged 65 years and over lived within five kilometres of the coast. In comparison, 25% of Australians aged 0-64 lived within five kilometres of the coast.


INDIGENOUS POPULATION

In 1996, 3% of Indigenous people were aged 65 years and over compared with 12% of the total Australian population. By 2006, the proportion of older Indigenous people is projected to remain at the same level (3%), while the proportion of older people in the total Australian population is expected to rise to 13%. The lower proportion of older Indigenous people reflects both their higher fertility and lower life expectancy.


AGE AND SEX
On average women live longer than men. In 1998, for example, there were more older women in the population than older men and the imbalance increased with age. For people aged 65-69, 51% were women. However, for those aged 95 years and over the proportion was 77%. In contrast, females comprised 49% of children (0-14 years).

AUSTRALIAN POPULATION, Age Groups - 1998 p

Males
Females
Persons
Age group (years)
'000
%
'000
%
'000
%
% female

0-64
8,330.6
89.3
8,137.1
86.4
16,467.7
87.8
49.4
65-69
333.5
3.6
348.3
3.7
681.8
3.6
51.1
70-74
285.5
3.1
329.5
3.5
615.1
3.3
53.6
75-79
201.0
2.2
267.9
2.8
468.9
2.5
57.1
80-84
110.0
1.2
179.9
1.9
289.9
1.5
62.1
85-89
51.1
0.5
106.3
1.1
157.4
0.8
67.5
80-94
14.5
0.2
39.8
0.4
54.3
0.3
73.4
95 and over
3.7
-
12.2
0.1
16.0
0.1
76.7
Total
9,329.9
100.0
9,421.1
100.0
18,751.0
100.0
50.2



ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Internal migration - Between 1991 and 1996, 22% of older people moved residence compared with 43% of the total population. Among older people mobility rates increased with age, but the distance moved declined.

Overseas migration - In 1998, two per 1,000 older people born overseas left Australia permanently compared with eight per 1,000 younger overseas-born. About three-quarters of overseas-born older residents who left Australia permanently were returning to their country of birth.

Country of birth - The age structure of different birthplace groups reflects changing immigration patterns over time. In 1998, 32% of people aged 65 years and over had been born overseas with the most common birthplace being the United Kingdom (36%). Birthplace groups with high proportions of older overseas-born were Poland, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany. For countries with continuous migration (New Zealand) or more recent migration (China, India, Viet Nam) the proportion of older people is much less (between 6% and 15%).

Additional analysis and data are available in the ABS publication Older People, Australia: A Social Report, 1999 (Cat. no. 4109.0).


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