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Australia's estimated resident population (ERP) at 30 June 2002 was 19.7 million, an increase of 250,000 (1.3%) over the previous year (table 5.1).
Australia's population growth rate of 1.3% for the 12 months to 30 June 2002 was slightly above the overall world growth rate, which was 1.2% (table 5.2). Growth rates for Germany (0.1%), Japan (0.1%), the United Kingdom (0.3%) and China (0.6%) were considerably lower than for Australia. In contrast, the populations of Singapore (with a growth rate of 3.5%), Papua New Guinea (2.4%), Indonesia (1.6%) and India (1.5%) grew at faster rates than Australia's population.
Australia's population of 19.7 million at 30 June 2002 has grown by almost 2.2 million (12.4%) over the past decade. During the past century Australia's population has increased by over 15.8 million persons from the 3.8 million residents at Federation in 1901. Graph 5.3 shows the growth in Australia's population since 1901.
Table 5.4 shows that population growth has not occurred evenly across the states and territories. In 1901, South Australia had nearly twice the population of Western Australia, which in turn had only slightly more people than Tasmania. ERP figures at 30 June 2002 show that New South Wales remained the most populous state, followed by Victoria and Queensland. Western Australia overtook South Australia in 1982 to become the fourth most populous state.
Components of population growth
Population growth results from natural increase and net overseas migration. Australia's population grew from 3.8 million at the beginning of the 20th century to 19.7 million in 2002. During the 1950s, Australia experienced consistently high rates of growth, with an average annual increase of 2.3% from 1950 to 1959. However, during the 1930s, Australia experienced relatively low growth, with an average annual increase of 0.9%.
Natural increase has been the main source of the growth since the beginning of the 20th century, contributing two-thirds of the total increase between 1901 and 2002. Net overseas migration, while a significant source of growth, is much more volatile, fluctuating under the influence of government policy as well as political, economic and social conditions in Australia and the rest of the world.
The yearly growth rates due to natural increase and net overseas migration from 1901 to 2002 are shown in graph 5.5.
In 1901 the rate of natural increase was 14.9 persons per 1,000 population. Over the next four decades the rate increased (to a peak of 17.4 per 1,000 population in the years 1912, 1913 and 1914), then declined (to a low of 7.1 per 1,000 population in 1934 and 1935). In the mid- to late-1940s the rate increased sharply as a result of the beginning of the baby boom and the immigration of many young people who then had children in Australia, with a plateau of rates of over 13.0 persons per 1,000 population for every year from 1946 to 1962.
Since 1962 falling fertility has led to a fall in the rate of natural increase. In 1971 the rate was 12.7 persons per 1,000 population; a decade later it had fallen to 8.5. In 1996 the rate of natural increase fell below 7 for the first time, with the downward trend continuing from then on. ABS population projections indicate that continued low fertility, combined with the increase in deaths from an ageing population, will result in natural increase falling below zero sometime in the mid-2030s.
Over the century the crude death rate has almost halved, falling from 12.2 deaths per 1,000 population in 1901 to 6.6 in 2001. Crude birth and death rates from 1901 to 2001 are shown in graph 5.6.
Population age and sex structure
5.7 AGE DISTRIBUTION PROFILE OF POPULATION - 1901 and 2002
(a) The 85+ age group includes all ages 85 and over and therefore is not strictly comparable with five-year age groups in the rest of this graph.
Source: Australian Historical Population Statistics - on AusStats (3105.0.65.001); Population by Age and Sex, Australian States and Territories (3201.0).
The median age of the Australian population has also changed markedly over the past century. In 1901 the median age (the age where half the population is older and half is younger) was 23.6 years for males and 21.5 years for females. In 2002 the median age of the population has increased to 35.1 years for males and 36.6 years for females. In 1901 the median age for males was higher than for females, and in 2002 females had a higher median age than males. This can be attributed to the fact that females have a greater propensity to live to the older ages.
The changing age structure of Australia's population is also reflected through decrease in the proportion of children (aged under 15 years) within the population from 35.1% in 1901 to 20.3% in 2002. Conversely, the proportion of the population aged 65 years and over has increased significantly from 4.0% in 1901 to 12.7% in 2002. It is also interesting to note that the proportion of the very old (those aged over 85 years) has increased markedly from just 0.2% in 1901 to 1.4% in 2002, with 68.8% of those aged 85 years and over being female in 2002.
The age distribution of the Indigenous population differs markedly from that of the non-Indigenous population. At 30 June 2001 the Indigenous ERP was 458,500 persons. Of which 2.8% were aged 65 years and over (compared with 12.8% of non-Indigenous persons), 10.2% were aged 50 years and over (compared with 29.1% of non-Indigenous persons) and 39.0% were aged 14 years and under (compared with 20.1% of non-Indigenous persons) (table 5.9).
Indigenous persons aged 50 years and over were more likely to live in Remote and Very Remote areas than non-Indigenous persons in the same age group. At 30 June 2001 almost one-third of all Indigenous persons aged 50 years and over lived in Remote and Very Remote areas (29.2%), a much higher proportion than for non-Indigenous persons aged 50 years and over in these areas (1.7%).
Correspondingly, while nearly two-thirds (65.1%) of the non-Indigenous population aged 50 years and over lived in Major City areas, only a quarter (28.1%) of the Indigenous population resided in these areas (graph 5.10).