The population projections presented in this publication cover the period 2012 to 2101 for Australia and 2012 to 2061 for the states and territories, and capital cities and balance of state regions.
The projections are not predictions or forecasts, but are simply illustrations of the growth and change in population which would occur if certain assumptions about future levels of fertility, mortality, internal migration and overseas migration were to prevail over the projection period. The assumptions incorporate recent trends which indicate increasing levels of fertility and net overseas migration (NOM) for Australia.
This chapter discusses the projection results, in terms of population size and growth, and the changing age structure and distribution of the population. Three main series of projections (Series A, B and C) have been selected from a possible 24 individual combinations of the various national level assumptions. Series B largely reflects current trends in fertility, life expectancy at birth and NOM, whereas Series A and Series C are based on high and low assumptions for each of these variables respectively.
MAIN PROJECTION SERIES, Australia
PROJECTED POPULATION AT 30 JUNE
Life expectancy at birth(a)
Total fertility rate(b)
Net overseas migration(c)
babies per woman
|Series A |
|Series B |
|Series C |
|(a) From 2061 |
|(b) From 2026 |
|(c) From 2021 |
POPULATION SIZE AND GROWTH
Australia's estimated resident population (ERP) at 30 June 2012 of 22.7 million people is projected to increase to between 36.8 and 48.3 million people by 2061, and to between 42.4 and 70.1 million people by 2101. Series A projects the highest growth, while Series C projects the lowest growth.
In the 20 years to 30 June 2012, Australia's population increased by 1.3% per year on average, with just over half of this growth resulting from NOM and just under half from natural increase (the excess of births over deaths). In the last 2 years, Australia's population has increased by 1.6% per year on average, with the contribution of NOM growing to 56%, and natural increase decreasing to 44%. In the financial year 2011-12, there were 306,000 births and 147,200 deaths in Australia, resulting in natural increase of 158,800 people. During this same period, the contribution of NOM to population growth again increased to 58%, with natural increase decreasing to 42%.
In Series C, a state of natural decrease (deaths outnumbering births) will be reached in 2063. Despite this, Australia's population continues to increase slowly throughout the projection period, due to the contribution of NOM.
In contrast to the 2004-based set of ABS population projections released in November 2005, no series shows population decline for Australia before the end of the century.
The ageing of Australia's population is expected to continue over the period. This is the result of sustained below replacement levels of fertility combined with increasing life expectancy at birth. The median age of Australia's population (37.3 years at 30 June 2012) is projected to increase to between 38.6 years and 40.5 years in 2031 (Series A and C respectively) and to between 41.0 years and 44.5 years in 2061 (Series A and C).
In 2012 people aged 65 years and over made up 14% of Australia's population. This is projected to increase to 22% in 2061 and to 25% in 2101. The proportion of people aged less than 15 years is projected to decrease from 19% in 2012 to 17% in 2061, and 16% in 2101.
There were 420,300 people aged 85 years and over in Australia in 2012, making up 2% of the population. This group is projected to grow rapidly throughout the projection period, to 5% by 2061 and to 6% by 2101.
STATES AND TERRITORIES
For the states and territories, further assumptions as to net population gains/losses due to interstate migration are required. For more information, see the Net Interstate Migration sections of Chapter 2: Assumptions.
Assuming the current trends, Series B projects continuing population growth for all states and territories except Tasmania between 2012 and 2061.
By 2061 the population of New South Wales is projected to reach 11.5 million people, an increase of 4.2 million people (or 57%) from 2012, while Victoria is projected to reach 10.3 million people, an increase of 4.7 million people (or 83%).
Queensland is projected to more than double over the projection period, from 4.6 million in 2012 to 9.3 million by 2061.
Western Australia is projected to experience the largest percentage increase in population between 2012 and 2061, more than doubling the 2012 population of 2.4 million to 6.4 million by 2061.
The Northern Territory's population is projected to increase by 217,800 people between 2012 and 2061, to 453,000 people. Although a smaller absolute increase than those projected for the larger states, this is a significant increase (93%) relative to the Northern Territory's population of 235,200 people in 2012.
The population of the Australian Capital Territory is projected to increase by 365,800 people (98%) between 2012 and 2061, reaching 740,900 people. By 2038, the Australian Capital Territory is projected to exceed Tasmania's population. Tasmania's population is projected to increase slowly before levelling at 569,200 people at 2046 and then decreasing marginally from 2047 onwards (565,700 people in 2061).
South Australia is projected to increase by 651,700 people (39%) to 2.3 million people in 2061.
Note: Throughout this publication the terms capital city and balance of state are used to refer to the Greater Capital City Statistical Areas of the ASGS 2011. For example the GCCSA unit called 'rest of state' is referred to as 'balance of state'.
In Series B, all capital cities except Darwin are projected to experience higher percentage growth than their respective state or territory balances, resulting in a further concentration of Australia's population within the capital cities. At 2012, 66% of Australians lived in a capital city. By 2061 this proportion is projected to increase to 74%.
Sydney and Melbourne
Series C projects Sydney to remain the populous city in Australia, with 8.0 million people in 2061, followed by Melbourne with 7.6 million. However, in Series A and B Melbourne is projected to become the most populous, exceeding Sydney's population in 2030 and 2053, respectively. In 2061, Melbourne and Sydney are projected to reach a population of 8.6 and 8.5 million respectively (Series B).
Melbourne's population exceeding Sydney's in Series A and B is mainly due to larger levels of internal migration losses assumed for Sydney (a net loss of 38,700 and 22,700 people per year from 2015) compared to Melbourne (a net loss of 6,400 and 4,000 people per year from 2015) in the two series.
Other capital cities
In Series B, Perth is projected to experience the highest percentage growth (187%) of Australia's capital cities, increasing from 1.9 million people at 30 June 2012 to 5.5 million in 2061. The population of Perth is projected to overtake that of Brisbane in around 15 years time, when they both reach 3 million people in 2028. The second highest percentage growth (118%) is projected for Brisbane, increasing from 2.2 million people to 4.8 million people. In 2061 Darwin is projected to increase from 131,900 people in 2012 to 225,900 in 2061 (71%).