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Newsletters - Age Matters - Issue Number 4, September 2003


Welcome to the fourth edition of Age Matters and my first as Manager of the National Ageing Statistics Unit (NASU). Firstly, I would like to take the opportunity to thank my predecessor, Dave Martyn, for his dedication and outstanding contributions to NASU. No doubt the biggest challenge for me is to build on the strong foundation that Dave has left behind. Secondly, I look forward to working with all of our clients and stakeholders.

A major highlight for this quarter is the official release of Census of Population and Housing: Ageing in Australia, 2001 (cat. no. 2048.0) on the 13 October 2003. You will find a feature article on this publication in this edition of Age Matters. Other topics of interest include the release of Population Projections, Australia, 2002-2101 (cat. no. 3222.0), details on the upcoming 2nd National Conference of Emerging Researchers in Ageing (ERA), and information on the imminent release of General Social Survey, Australia, 2002 (cat. no. 4159.0).

Finally I would like to thank you for your support of our website. As a result, our Ageing theme page is one of the most popular web pages on the ABS website. Your feedback and suggestions for improvement will ensure its continued success.

I look forward to bringing you future editions of Age Matters.

Maryann Wood
National Ageing Statistics Unit


The publication Census of Population and Housing: Ageing in Australia, 2001 (cat. no. 2048.0) is due for release on 13 October 2003. While the major focus of this publication is on the number and characteristics of older Australians - persons aged 65 years and over - the ageing process in Australia is also explored by examining other age groups including mature age persons (45-64 years) and the very old (85 years and over), and by comparing 2001 census results with data from previous censuses. It will be a useful resource for agencies with ageing policy responsibilities, researchers and the Australian community in general.

Topics included in the publication are:

  • Population: an analysis of the current demographic structure of the Australian population and how it has changed over the last century, and the geographic distribution of the older population across Australia. While the total Australian population increased around five fold during the last century, the number of older people has increased over fifteen fold. Older people comprised 4% of the population in 1901, increasing to 13% in 2001, and is projected to form between 29% and 32% of the population by 2101.
    One of the main factors driving the ageing of the population is the declining fertility rate. The post-World War II baby boom saw the fertility rate reach a peak of 3.6 babies per woman in 1961, after which it has generally been declining. In 2001, the fertility rate was 1.7, which is well below replacement level. Another contributing factor to the ageing of the population is the increasing life expectancy. At the turn of the last century, the average life expectancy at birth was below 60 years for both males and females. In comparison, in 2001, a man was expected to live to 77 years while a woman was expected to live to 82 years.

      South Australia had the highest proportion of older people in 2001 (15%) followed by Tasmania (14%), both with a median age of 37 years (compared with 35 years for Australia as a whole). The Northern Territory had the youngest age structure with older people comprising only 4% and a median age of 29 years. In general, net interstate migration flows of older persons between the 1996 and 2001 censuses were northwards up the east coast, with Queensland experiencing the largest gain, and a smaller number westwards to Western Australia.
        Diagram - Main net interstate migration flows(a), Persons(b) aged 65 years and over, 1996-2001

    • Cultural diversity: investigated with identifiers such as Indigenous status, country of birth, proficiency in spoken English and religious affiliation. Of the 2.4 million older Australian residents in 2001, 31% were born overseas, with the most common birthplace being the United Kingdom and Ireland followed by Italy. The proportion of older persons is greater amongst the overseas-born population (18%) than for the Australian-born population (11%). This proportion varies with country of birth. Some 42% of Italian-born people living in Australia were aged 65 years and over in 2001, while those born in countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia have younger age structures, with less than 7% being older persons. This variation reflects the changing immigration policies of different governments over time, such as the significant immigration intake of young adults from Europe immediately following World War II, and more recently, settlers have been attracted from non-European origins, especially Asia.

      • Living arrangements: reports on who older persons are living with and the type of housing they are living in, with focus on particular interest groups, including Indigenous persons, persons born in other than predominantly English speaking countries and lone persons. While nearly two-thirds of Australia's older people (62%) continue to live in family households (usually with their partner), recent trends such as low fertility, smaller families, higher incidence of childlessness, and increased divorce rates, have meant that the number and proportion of older persons living alone have increased and are likely to increase in the future. Over the thirty years to 2001, the proportion of older persons living alone has increased from around one in five to one in four. A further 7% of older people live in non-private dwellings, mainly in cared accommodation such as nursing homes, and accommodation for the retired/aged.

        Graph - Lone persons(a), aged 15 years and over, 1971-2001
        Home ownership is highest amongst older persons with three-quarters of those aged 65 years and over living in private dwellings that were fully owned. A further 4% were living in homes where mortgage payments were still being made. Renting is highest amongst those in their twenties, just over 40%, decreasing to 12% for older persons who were predominantly renting from private landlords or real estate agents (42%) and government housing authorities (39%), while a further 6% were renting through community or cooperative housing groups.

        • Work and economic environment: focuses on the participation of mature age and older persons in the labour market and how this has changed over time. It also includes an analysis by industry and occupation, as well as hours worked and levels of income. Labour force participation in Australia has undergone significant changes over the last few decades. In general, the participation rates for men have declined, while the rates for women have been on the increase. In 1971, 89% of mature age men (aged 45-64 years) were participating in the labour force, i.e. were either employed or unemployed, decreasing to 77% in 2001. At the same time, the rate for mature age women increased from 32% to 58%. This increase for women reflects changes in society and the economy such as a general acceptance of women in the work force, and an increase in the availability of flexible and part-time work, influenced by the growth of service industries such as finance and tourism, allowing women to participate in paid work while raising children. The participation rate of older persons has dropped from 12% in 1971 to 8% in 2001.

        Graph - Labour force participation rates(a), Persons(b), aged 15 years and over, 1971 and 2001
          The industry with the oldest workforce in 2001 was Agriculture, forestry and fishing. This industry was characterised by a median age of 45 years, with one in ten workers aged 65 years and over. The Education industry also had an older workforce with a median age of 43 years, but only 1% were older workers. Industries with the youngest median age were Accommodation, cafes and restaurants (32 years) and Retail trade (31 years).

        • Transport: examines the number of registered motor vehicles garaged in households of older persons, and the method of travel that older people use to travel to work. Almost half of older persons reported one motor vehicle garaged at their household on 2001 census night, while some 17% reported that there was no vehicle garaged.

        • Education: an analysis of the formal education of older persons and their attendance at educational institutions. Some 41% of older persons reported having completed non-school qualifications in 2001, with most of these (56%) holding a certificate level qualification, 20% a diploma or advanced diploma and 25% a bachelor degree or higher. In comparison, 56% of 25-34 year olds had completed non-school qualifications in 2001. The lower levels of completion by the older age groups reflect they had fewer opportunities as well as lower demand in the workplace for higher educational qualifications at the time they left school. This will mean increased levels of non-school qualifications for successive generations of older people.

          • Technology: reports on the use of personal computers and the Internet by older persons and the association between this use and factors such as income, education and geographic location. While surveys show there has been a growth in the use of computers by older persons over the last few years, they were much less likely to use a computer at home in the week prior to the 2001 census than younger age groups. One in ten older persons reported such computer usage, compared with over half of people aged 15-44 years. Some 6% of older persons accessed the Internet during that time. Older persons possessing higher educational qualifications, earning a higher income or living in rural areas were more likely to use these technologies. This higher proportion of computer use and Internet access by older Australians in rural areas is associated with the continued strong growth in the use of such technology by farmers.

            Graph - Computer use and internet access by section of State(a), Persons(b), Aged 65 years and over

            To order a copy of this publication, complete and return the attached order form, or order online via the ABS website at

            Order form.pdf


          The following extract is from Population Projections, Australia, 2002-2101 (cat. no. 3222.0) which was released on 2 September 2003.

          Population ageing

          Of all the changes that are projected to occur in Australia's population, ageing is the most dramatic, resulting from major changes in the age structure of the population, particularly over the next 50 years.

          The projections show that the ageing of the population, which is already evident in the current age structure, is set to continue. This is the inevitable result of fertility remaining at low levels over a long period while mortality rates decline. The median age at June 2002 of 35.9 years is projected to increase to between 40.4 years and 42.3 years in 2021 and between 46.0 years and 49.9 years in 2051. There is less change in the second half of the projection period and by 2101 the median age is projected to be between 47.9 years and 50.5 years.

          The ageing of the population affects the entire age structure of the population. The proportion of the population aged under 15 years is projected to fall from 20% (4.0 million) of the population at June 2002, to between 12%-15% (2.8 million to 4.8 million) in 2051 and 12%-15% (3.6 million to 5.5 million) in 2101. The proportion of the population aged 50 years and over will increase from 29% (5.7 million) at June 2002 to between 46%-50% (11.5 million to 14.3 million) in 2051 and 47%-51% (9.6 million to 18.0 million) in 2101.

          Consequently, the age structure of the population is projected to change noticeably by 2051, with a greater concentration of people aged 50 years and over and lower proportions of young people. This distribution is also evident in 2101.

          PROJECTED POPULATION AGE STRUCTURE, As at 30 June, Series B - Australia

          Graph - Projected population age structure, as at 30 June, series B - Australia

          For further information contact Katrina Phelan (02) 6252 6573 or email


          The 'An Ageless Workforce - Opportunities for Business' Symposium was held in Sydney on 27 August 2003. National Seniors' Association and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted the Symposium. The objective of the Symposium was to raise the awareness of the business community of the labour market impacts of demographic change and how current employment practices affect the work force participation of workers as they age.

          The Minister for Ageing, Kevin Andrews MP, opened the Symposium and The Prime Minister, John Howard MP delivered the luncheon address to 500 business leaders.

          ABS spokesperson, Alan Mackay (Assistant Statistician, Health and Community Statistics Branch), presented a statistical summary of mature age workers, encompassing changes in participation rates by age over time, structural shifts in the labour force, labour mobility and labour force experience issues.

          Key Symposium papers are available at


          The National Symposium on Ageing Research: Building evidence, Policy and Practice was held at the Australian National University from the 23 to 25 September 2003. The two-and-a-half day program featured an exceptional list of internationally and nationally recognised researchers, leading policy makers, and influential industry and community representatives.

          The Symposium is an outcome of the Building Ageing Research Capacity (BARC) Project. The BARC project is a collaborative venture between the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Office for an Ageing Australia, Department of Health and Ageing.

          Commenced in mid-2002, the BARC project is aimed at developing and encouraging maximum collaboration and coordination between Australian researchers and policy makers on ageing issues. Better collaboration and coordination are seen as key elements in improving the quality and quantity of the evidence base available to inform policy development work.

          Further information is available at


          The Ageing Research On-line (ARO) web-site was officially launched on the 23 September 2003 at the National Symposium on Ageing Research. ARO is a networking initiative sponsored by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing and developed in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The website provides an easily accessible and searchable central register of ageing research in Australia, access to information on relevant courses, grants, and upcoming events as well as a forum for discussing "hot issues". Further information is available at


          Last year the Australasian Centre on Ageing staged the first National Conference for Emerging Researchers in Ageing (ERA). ERA 2002, the first of its kind in Australia, was a one-day conference that provided an opportunity for PhD students to present their research on ageing and showcased a broad range of emerging ageing issues.

          This year the Centre will be presenting the 2nd ERA Conference - Maximising the Impact on Policy and Practice - on 21 November 2003. ERA 2003 presenters have been selected from Australian and Asia-Pacific Universities and will provide an opportunity to share information and methodologies with other professionals and peers. The conference also provides policy-makers, providers and practitioners with an opportunity to hear the latest research and creates an ideal environment to network, and discuss crucial and emerging trends.

          The Centre has secured the services of Professor Clare Ungerson, Professor of Social Policy, University of Southhampton, United Kingdom, and RM Gibson Travelling Fellow, as the keynote speaker. She will give a presentation about the criticality of ageing research and the major contribution it can make to shaping government policies.

          The 2003 ERA Conference will be held in the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, South Bank on 21 November from 8.30am - 5.00pm. Secure online registration and conference information is available on - follow the website link to ERA 2003.


          2002 General Social Survey

          The publication, General Social Survey, Australia, 2002 (cat. no. 4159.0) is in the final stages of preparation and is now scheduled for release on 15 October 2003.

          A Questionnaire Package, comprising a copy of the GSS questionnaire, interview prompt cards and a detailed output data item list, is to be released electronically at the same time as the publication.

          State and Territory versions of the GSS publication tables will be available via the ABS website at the time of the publication release or shortly thereafter.

          Preparation of two confidentialised unit record file (CURFs) is proceeding. The CURFs will provide two levels of detail. The less detailed, or basic, CURF will be available on CD-ROM only. A new ABS service - the Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL) will provide access to both the basic, and a more expanded GSS CURF, via a secure Internet based data query service. It is expected that both the CD-ROM and the RADL file will be available at the end of November 2003. An information paper will be released at that time, describing the content of the basic and expanded GSS CURFs.

          For more information contact Geoff Neideck (02) 6252 7269, email or Graeme Groves (02) 6252 5943, email


          The ABS has developed a free Email Notification Service which alerts clients whenever there is a statistical release related to a topic in their area of interest.

          Clients can register for the service from a link on the
          ABS home page under the Statistical Releases section. A product list with check boxes allows clients to register for one topic, many topics or all releases. For example, people who subscribe to 'Census statistical products and services' will be sent an email notification about any products released that day that start with the '20' ABS catalogue number. Clients can also unsubscribe from one or all releases and query their subscriptions.

          If the product has a Main Features, the link in the notification email will be linked to
          Main Features. Alternately, if the product does not have a Main Features it will be linked to the ABS on-line catalogue entry. The email will also contain a link to the week's forthcoming releases and the ABS web site.

          To use the service it's just a matter of ticking as many boxes as you like, enter your email address and push the subscribe button. You will then be sent a confirmation email, which must be returned to enable the ABS to activate the subscription. Querying and unsubscribing follow similar processes.

          Enquiries regarding the email notification service should be sent through the Subscription Support link located at the bottom of the
          email notification page which will generate an email. A reply will be quickly forwarded back to you.

          WHERE CAN YOU FIND US???

          An Ageing theme page containing ageing-relevant information from the ABS and other Commonwealth Government agencies has been added to the ABS web site. The Ageing theme page highlights the type and range of data available for ageing analyses and will be updated to highlight new data releases as they become available.

          NASU Contact Details

                    • Fax: (07) 3222 6284
                    • Address: National Ageing Statistics Unit
                      Australian Bureau of Statistics
                      GPO Box 9817, BRISBANE QLD 4001

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