Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rate the ABS website
ABS Home > Statistics > By Release Date
4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2001  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 06/06/2001   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product  
Contents >> Population >> Population Projections: Population projections for the 21st century

Population Projections: Population projections for the 21st century

Australia's population is projected to grow from 19 million in 1999 to between 23 and 32 million in 2101, depending on the assumptions made about future fertility and net overseas migration.

Future changes in the size, distribution and composition of the population can have far reaching implications for economic and social wellbeing. For example, steady population growth may help to fuel economic growth and subsequently maintain or improve our material living standards. On the other hand, unlimited population growth could undermine the objectives of environmental protection and ecologically sustainable development, and ultimately the living standards and quality of life of future generations. Continued ageing of the population has implications for the labour market as well as many areas of social policy and planning, including the provision of income support, health care, housing, and community support services for rapidly growing numbers of older people.

Population change impacts on economic and social policy and planning at the national, State and regional levels. However, the extent and nature of the impact will vary greatly between different areas depending on the amount and type of population change experienced.



POPULATION PROJECTIONS

This article is based on ABS population projections. These projections span the period 1999 to 2101 for Australia and 1999 to 2051 for the States, Territories and regions. The base population for the projections is the estimated resident population at 30 June 1999.

Population projections are not predictions or forecasts. They simply show what would happen to Australia's population if a particular set of assumptions about future levels of births, deaths, net overseas migration and, for States and Territories, net internal migration, were to hold for the next 50 to 100 years. The assumptions about levels of future fertility, mortality and migration are based on long-term trends, current debate, and possible future scenarios arising from research in Australia and elsewhere.

For the sake of simplicity, this article limits analysis to three main series which cover three sets of possible future population growth outcomes; high (Series I), medium (Series II) and low (Series III). For State, Territory and regional analysis, only Series II is used.

ASSUMPTIONS USED(a) - AUSTRALIA

Total fertility rate (per female)
Net overseas migration (per year)

Series I
1.75
110,000
Series II
1.60
90,000
Series III
1.60
70,000

(a) One mortality assumption is used for all series - that life expectancy at birth increases, at a declining rate, from 75.9 years for males and 81.5 years for females to 83.3 years and 86.6 years respectively in 2051.

Source: Population Projections, Australia, 1999 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0).


Australia's population growth
Australia's population is projected to grow from 19 million in 1999 to between 22 and 24 million in 2021, 24-28 million in 2051, and 23-32 million in 2101. Based on assumptions of relatively high fertility combined with high net overseas migration, Series I projects continuous growth, at declining rates, throughout the 21st century. In Series II (low fertility, medium migration) the population peaks at around 26 million in 2064, then declines gradually. In Series III (low fertility, low migration) the population peaks earlier (in 2049) and lower (at 24 million), then declines more rapidly than in Series II.

The growth rate, and ultimate size, of each of these projected populations reflects the interaction of two components of growth: natural increase (excess of births over deaths) which is determined by the combination of assumptions about fertility and mortality; and net overseas migration.

PROJECTED POPULATION, AUSTRALIA

Source: Population Projections, Australia, 1999 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0).


Throughout the twentieth century, natural increase has been the main component of population growth, contributing about two thirds of total growth during the period. However, natural increase is projected to fall rapidly during the first half of the 21st century, reaching zero between 2033 and 2046, depending on the series used.

The projected decline in natural increase is mainly the result of increasing numbers of deaths rather than decreasing numbers of births, though Series II and III do project some decline in the number of births. In all three series, the number of deaths is projected to increase rapidly between 2031 and 2051 as the large cohort of post World War II ‘baby boomers’ moves into the 85 years and over age group.

As the projected levels of natural increase continue to decline, the assumed levels of net overseas migration, make an increasingly important contribution to either maintaining population growth (Series I) or moderating population decline (Series II and III). As well as the immediate effect on population numbers, overseas migration also contributes to births, deaths and consequently, to natural increase. The difference in natural increase between Series II and Series III, which have the same assumptions of fertility and mortality, can be attributed entirely to the natural increase contributed by the 20,000 per year difference in assumed net overseas migration between the two series.

PROJECTED NATURAL INCREASE, AUSTRALIA

Source: Population Projections, Australia, 1999 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0).


Population ageing
The structural ageing of Australia's population, evident since the 1970s, can be attributed to the sustained decline in fertility which followed the post-war baby boom. Based on assumptions of continuing low fertility (even the ‘high’ fertility assumption of 1.75 births per woman is below replacement level) and a small increase in life expectancy, Australia's population is projected to continue ageing into the next century.

As the large baby boom generation ages, the number of older people is projected to increase rapidly. In Series II, as the youngest of the surviving baby boomers reaches 65 years of age in 2031, the population aged 65 years and over is projected to reach 5.4million (more than double the number in 1999) and represent 22% of the total population (compared with 12% in 1999). As the youngest baby boomers reach 85 years of age in 2051, the population aged 85 years and over is projected to reach 1.3 million (more than five times the number in 1999) and represent 5% of the total population.

AGE STRUCTURE OF THE PROJECTED POPULATION, AUSTRALIA-SERIES II

Source: Population Projections, Australia, 1999 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0).


Reflecting their longer life expectancy, women outnumber men in the older age groups, particularly in the group aged 85 years and over. In 1999, women made up 69% of the 85 years and over age group. In all series this proportion is projected to fall to 59% by 2051, based on the assumption that
the current trend for men's life expectancy to improve more rapidly than women's will continue into the future.

Reflecting the large increases in the numbers of people aged 45 years and over, and slight declines in the numbers of children, the median age of the population is projected to rise rapidly from 35 years in 1999 to between 44 and 47 years in 2051. Beyond this point, there is little change in the median age, reflecting the relatively static age structure which is a result of assumptions of fertility, mortality and migration being held constant to the end of the projection period (2101).

Because immigrants have a younger age profile than the total population, the initial effect of any migrant intake on the population is to slightly lower its median age. However, because migrants age over time with the rest of the population, the long-term effect of net overseas migration on population ageing is minor compared with its effect on population size. For example, the difference in assumed net overseas migration between Series II and Series III (20,000 per year), results in only half a year difference in median age between the two series in 2051, while the difference in population size is 1.3 million.

MEDIAN AGE OF PROJECTED POPULATION, AUSTRALIA

Source: Population Projections, Australia, 1999 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0).


State and Territory population growth
Projected population growth varies considerably across Australia's States and Territories and reflects the interaction of three components: natural increase; net overseas migration; and net interstate migration. In each of the three fastest growing populations (i.e. the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia), growth is dominated by different components.

In the Northern Territory natural increase contributes over 80% of projected population growth. This results from assumptions of relatively high fertility applied to a relatively young age structure, both of which are influenced by the large Indigenous population (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 29% of the Northern Territory population in 1996). Series II projects that the Northern Territory population will almost double in the next
50 years to 370,000 in 2051.

In Queensland, net population gains from interstate migration make the largest contribution to projected population growth. This is based on the assumption that Queensland will continue the long-term trend of attracting large flows of people from other States, mainly New South Wales and Victoria. Series II projects that, in 2038, Queensland will replace Victoria as the second most populous State and that almost one in four Australians (over six million) will be living in Queensland in 2051.

PROJECTED POPULATION GROWTH AND DISTRIBUTION, STATES AND TERRITORIES-SERIES II

Population at 30 June
Population growth

1999
2021
2051
1999-2051
‘000
‘000
‘000
%

New South Wales
6,411.7
7,600.4
8,247.8
28.6
Victoria
4,712.2
5,419.0
5,547.3
17.7
Queensland
3,512.4
4,808.7
6,101.3
73.7
South Australia
1,493.1
1,562.8
1,410.5
-5.5
Western Australia
1,891.0
2,468.2
3,037.8
63.2
Tasmania
470.3
442.0
319.3
-32.1
Northern Territory
192.9
265.0
369.5
91.6
Australian Capital Territory
310.2
356.5
371.7
19.8
Australia
18,966.8
22,926.4
25,408.5
34.0

Source: Population Projections, Australia, 1999 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0).


Western Australia receives a relatively large share of overseas settlers in relation to its population size. Net overseas migration is projected to become the main driver of its population growth within the next 10 years as the contribution of natural increase declines. Western Australia's population is projected to grow by more than one million (63%) in the next 50 years.

While moderate population growth is projected for New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, the populations of Tasmania and South Australia are projected to decline over the next 50 years. Tasmania's population is projected to decline by 32% between 1999 and 2051. For the first thirty years, the main contributor to population loss is net interstate migration, as young people continue to move to the mainland for education and work reasons. These losses of young adults result in fewer young families so that in the following twenty years, losses from negative natural increase are projected to exceed losses from interstate migration.

Following a period of slow growth to 2023, the population of South Australia is also projected to drop below its current level by the end of the projection period. Steady losses through interstate migration are offset by gains from overseas migration, so this pattern of growth and decline largely follows the projected trend in natural increase.


STATE AND TERRITORY PROJECTIONS, ASSUMPTIONS USED(a)-SERIESII

Total fertility rate (per female)
Net overseas migration (per year)
Net internal migration (per year)

NSW
1.64
38,295
-15,000
Vic.
1.52
20,603
-9,000
Qld
1.64
14,650
25,000
SA
1.55
3,168
-2,500
WA
1.61
12,335
3,500
Tas.
1.65
129
-2,000
NT
1.97
574
0
ACT
1.41
246
0
Aust.
1.60
90,000
. .

(a) It is assumed that the mortality differentials existing between States and Territories and Australia during 1996-1998 will remain constant throughout the projection period.

Source: Population Projections, Australia, 1999 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0).


Regional population change
All capital cities are projected to experience greater rates of population growth than their respective State/Territory balances, but the degree to which this occurs varies considerably. For example, Melbourne's projected rate of growth between 1999 and 2021 is six times greater than for the rest of Victoria while Sydney's projected rate of growth is three times greater than for the rest of New South Wales. However, in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory there is relatively little difference, with strong growth projected across the whole State or Territory.

Overall, Australia's population is projected to become slightly more concentrated within its capital cities. Series II projects that 65% of all Australians will be living in capital cities in 2021, compared with 64% in 1999. Sydney and Melbourne are projected to remain our two largest cities, and home to over
9.1 million Australians (40% of the total population) in 2021.

REGIONAL POPULATION GROWTH AND DISTRIBUTION, SERIES II

Population growth 1999-2021
Population living in capital cities at 30 June 2021


Capital city
Balance
%
%
'000
%

New South Wales
24.7
80.
5,039.7
66.3
Victoria
19.4
3.3
4,081.8
75.3
Queensland
38.3
35.7
2,215.5
46.1
South Australia
7.3
-2.4
1,172.3
75.0
Western Australia
33.2
31.0
1,817.5
73.6
Tasmania
-3.7
-7.7
187.1
42.3
Northern Territory
46.8
29.6
129.3
48.8
Australian Capital Territory(a)
14.9
n.a.
356.5
n.a.
Australia
23.9
15.6
14,999.5
65.4

(a) Separate projections are not available for the balance of ACT.

Source: Population Projections, Australia, 1999 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0).


Ageing in States and Territories
While population age profiles vary throughout Australia as a result of past differences in fertility, mortality and migration trends, all of the State and Territory populations are projected to continue ageing into the next half century. Those with the oldest age profiles in 1999 and the lowest growth rates are projected to age the most.

Tasmania's population is projected to age most rapidly, overtaking South Australia as the ‘oldest state’ by 2021, and reaching a median age of 53 years by 2051. This rapid ageing is associated with very large declines among the younger age groups together with increases in the older age groups. Tasmania experiences large net losses of young people, as well as small net gains of older people, as a result of interstate migration. This trend, already evident for some time in Tasmania, is assumed to continue throughout the projection period, accelerating the natural ageing associated with continued low fertility.

The pattern of ageing associated with population loss is similar, but less marked, in South Australia which experiences a smaller decline in the numbers of younger people. Between 1999 and 2051, the median age in Tasmania and South Australia is projected to increase by 17 years and 14 years respectively (compared with 11 years for Australia). By 2051 over 30% of the projected population in both States will be aged 65 years and over, compared with 26% for Australia.

In contrast, the Northern Territory which has Australia's youngest population, and the highest projected rate of population growth, also has the lowest projected increase in median age (6 years) between 1999 and 2051. While all age groups are projected to increase in size, continued strong growth in the numbers of younger people maintains a relatively youthful age structure in the Northern Territory population.

Similarly, but to a lesser extent, continued growth in the numbers of younger people in the high growth States of Queensland and Western Australia will moderate the ageing effect of large increases in the numbers of older people.

PROJECTED AGEING IN STATES AND TERRITORIES, SERIES II

Median age at 30 June
Increase in median age
Population aged 65 years and over


years
years
years
years
%
%
%

New South Wales
35.3
41.3
46.1
10.8
12.8
18.6
26.3
Victoria
35.1
42.0
47.1
12.0
12.7
19.3
27.8
Queensland
34.2
40.3
45.3
11.1
11.4
17.1
24.7
South Australia
36.7
44.2
50.2
13.5
14.4
22.1
31.1
Western Australia
33.9
40.0
44.5
10.6
10.5
16.9
24.3
Tasmania
36.1
45.1
53.2
17.1
13.4
22.6
34.0
Northern Territory
28.6
32.6
34.7
6.1
3.4
6.7
10.3
Australian Capital Territory
32.4
38.9
43.3
10.9
8.0
16.2
23.3
Australia
34.9
41.2
46.0
11.1
12.2
18.4
26.1

Source: Population Projections, Australia, 1999 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0).


Regional ageing
In all States except Western Australia, the balance of State populations are projected to age more rapidly than their respective capital city populations. Greater ageing in these areas is associated with their having older populations to start with and lower projected growth rates. It is also linked to the assumption that younger people will continue to gravitate to the capital cities for education and employment reasons, while some retirees will leave the capitals to live in coastal and rural towns. The greatest intra-State disparity in population ageing occurs in New South Wales and Victoria.

In Series II, the median age of the population living outside our capital cities is projected to reach 43 years in 2021, ranging from 32 years in the Northern Territory to 46 years in Tasmania and South Australia. The proportion of the population aged 65 years and over living outside capital cities is projected to reach 20% in 2021, ranging from 6% in the Northern Territory to 23% in Tasmania and South Australia.

PROJECTED AGE OF REGIONAL POPULATIONS, 2021-SERIES II

Median age
Increase in median age 1999-2021
Population aged 65 years and over



Capital city
Balance
Capital city
Balance
Capital city
Balance
years
years
years
years
%
%

New South Wales
40.0
44.4
5.5
7.7
16.8
22.2
Victoria
41.1
45.0
6.5
8.5
18.3
22.3
Queensland
39.3
41.2
5.8
6.4
16.2
18.0
South Australia
43.7
45.7
7.1
8.8
21.8
23.1
Western Australia
40.5
38.7
6.3
5.7
17.3
15.6
Tasmania
44.3
45.7
8.4
9.5
21.6
23.3
Northern Territory
33.5
31.7
3.6
4.2
7.4
5.9
Australian Capital Territory(a)
38.9
n.a.
6.5
n.a.
16.2
n.a.
Australia
40.4
42.8
5.9
7.1
17.5
20.1

(a) Separate projections are not available for ACT balance.

Source: Population Projections, Australia, 1999 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0).



Previous PageNext Page

Bookmark and Share. Opens in a new window


Commonwealth of Australia 2014

Unless otherwise noted, content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence together with any terms, conditions and exclusions as set out in the website Copyright notice. For permission to do anything beyond the scope of this licence and copyright terms contact us.