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Newsletters - Age Matters - Issue Number 5, December 2003


Welcome to the fifth and final issue of Age Matters for 2003. It has been a busy year for the National Ageing Statistical Unit (NASU) with the main highlights including:

  • the release of 'Census of Population and Housing: Ageing in Australia, 2001' (cat. no. 2048.0);
  • an article for Australian Social Trends 2003, 'Changes in labour force participation across generations' (cat. no. 4102.0);
  • a presentation and conference paper for the Ageless Workforce Symposium held in Sydney (August); and
  • the release of the ageing theme page on the ABS website.

Another main highlight for NASU was the production of an information paper outlining what can be done with new and existing data in terms of addressing the big questions on ageing. A copy of this paper is included in this issue of Age Matters.

I am sure you will find the information contained in this issue useful reading over the holiday period, including: Australia's official population reaching the 20 million milestone; Australia's working age population projected to decline; Australia's older population on the increase; and, the age of women giving birth now older than ever.

Thank you for your support throughout the year. 2004 is shaping into an equally busy and even more productive year. I look forward to bringing you more news.

I hope you have a safe and happy holiday.

Maryann Wood

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The Intergenerational Report (IGR) and The National Strategy for an Ageing Australia released in 2002 identified a large range of important issues associated with an ageing population. Through discussions with key clients, associated research and feedback, the ABS has been able to identify the key issues, or 'big questions' which key policy makers are seeking to address in the ageing context. This paper draws heavily on a recent ABS paper presented to the Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC) to bring forward these issues and to identify how information (ABS and non-ABS) can provide an understanding of the issues.

The paper identifies four key themes in respect of ageing:

  1. Labour Force Participation: how to maintain employment to population ratios given an ageing population, or cope with the economic implications of a declining ratio.
  2. Retirement and Transition to Retirement: how to provide for retirement given longer life spans.
  3. Health and Care Costs: what are the economic implications of the growing demand on health services and care services.
  4. Social and Community Impacts of Ageing: how to promote positive ageing in terms of health, social and economic participation.

Having identified the questions to be answered the paper attempts to identify the current and potential data sources to address the issues.

Further work in building Information Development Plans will be a key aspect of progressing this topic. Integral to that process will be continued discussions, with Commonwealth and State/Territory agencies with policy responsibility relating to the impacts of population ageing to ensure that the big questions are accurately delineated.

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Australia's official population reached 20 million on 4 December, 2003. The Australian Statistician, Dennis Trewin, said the population milestone would form part of Australia's demographic history. The official estimate of December 4 takes into account all the information that is available from births, deaths, overseas arrivals and departures and the 2001 Population Census. It is not feasible to determine who exactly the 20 millionth Australian would be because of the variable nature of population increases. However, it could be a person born around that time, a person who arrives as a permanent settler in Australia, or perhaps an Australian citizen returning home after living overseas for more than 12 months.

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According to the latest population projections released in Population Projections, Australia, 2002-2101 (cat. no. 3222.0), Australia's working-age population (those aged between 15–64 years) is projected to decline.

Although the number of Australians aged 15–64 years will increase over the next 50 years - from 13.2 million in 2002 to between 13.4 million and 17.7 million in 2051 - those aged 15-64 years as a proportion of the total population will decline from 67% in 2002 to between 57% and 59% in 2051. The proportion of the population aged 65 years and over will increase from 13% at June 2002 to between 27% and 30% in 2051. While those aged 85 years and over will increase from 1.4% to between 6% and 9% over this time. This age group will experience the highest growth rates of all age groups.

Depending on future levels of fertility, mortality and migration, Australia's total population is projected to increase from 19.7 million in 2002 to between 23 million and 31 million by 2051, and between 19 million and 38 million by 2101. The growth of Australia's population is projected to slow down during the next 50 years, from 1% per year during the first ten years of the projection period to 0.2% per year between 2041 and 2051.

State and territory populations

All states and territories, except Tasmania and South Australia, will increase in population by 2051. Queensland will increase by 73%, the Northern Territory by 55% and Western Australia by 49%. New South Wales will remain the most populous state in Australia, while Victoria will be replaced by Queensland as the second most populous state. Western Australia will increase its share of Australia's population, while South Australia's and Tasmania's shares will decline. South Australia's population will peak in 2027 and Tasmania's in 2012.

All capital cities will experience a larger percentage growth than the respective balances, resulting in further concentration of Australia's population in the capital cities. Sydney and Melbourne will remain the two most populous cities in Australia. Darwin will exceed Hobart in population from 2045.

Further details are in Population Projections, Australia, 2002-2101 (cat. no. 3222.0) or contact Katrina Phelan (02) 6252 6573, email

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While the total Australian population increased five-fold over the last century, the number of older people increased over fifteen-fold. Using 2001 Census data, Census of Population and Housing: Ageing in Australia (cat. no. 2048.0) shows that older people (aged 65 years and over) comprised 13% of the population in 2001, compared with 4% in 1901.

Other findings in the publication include:

  • Older people were less likely to move residence than younger people. While almost two-thirds (65%) of people aged 25-34 years moved between 1996 and 2001, only one-fifth of older people moved.
  • While approximately two-thirds of Australia's older people (62%) live in family households, 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 people living alone has increased (from 20% in 1971 to 26% in 2001);
  • Labour force participation rates for men have declined over the last few decades, while 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, decreasing to 77% in 2001, while for older men (aged 65 years and over) the rate decreased from 22% to 12%. At the same time, the rate for mature age women increased from 32% to 58%, and for older women increased slightly from 4% to 5%;
  • The industry with the oldest workforce in 2001 was agriculture, forestry and fishing with a median age of 45 years, followed by education, with a median age of 43 years. Industries with the youngest median age were accommodation, cafes and restaurants (32 years) and retail trade (31 years);
  • Some 41% of older people reported having completed non-school qualifications, compared to 56% of 25-34 year olds. 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; and
  • One in ten older people reported using a computer and 6% accessed the Internet in the week prior to the 2001 Census, compared with over half of the people aged 15-44 years. These technologies were more likely to be used by older people in rural areas than non-rural areas.

Further details are in Census of Population and Housing: Ageing in Australia (cat. no. 2048.0). To order a copy of this publication, complete and return the attached order form, or order online via this website.

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In 2002,

  • the median age of all women giving birth was 30.2 years, the highest on record.
  • there were 251,000 births, an increase of 4,600 births (1.9%) from 2001 and the highest since 1997.
  • the Australian total fertility rate was 1.75 babies per woman.
  • women aged 30-34 years experienced the highest age-specific fertility rate, with 111 babies per 1,000 women.
  • Australian total fertility rate remained lower than that of the United States of America (2.1 babies per woman) and New Zealand (2.0), but higher than that of the United Kingdom (1.6), Japan (1.3) and many European countries such as Germany (1.4), Greece (1.3) and Italy (1.2).
  • Victoria recorded the largest increase in births (up 2,900 over the number registered in 2001), followed by New South Wales (up 2,000). South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland, while there were fewer births in Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

You can find this information in the publication Births, Australia (cat. no. 3301.0), which was released on 18 November 2003. Other information presented in this publication include detailed statistics on confinements and live births -- male and female births, births of Indigenous children, age and birthplace of parents, duration of marriage, previous issue of the current relationship, nuptial and exnuptial births, single and multiple births, and usual residence of mother (by state or territory).

This publication is available from any ABS office or on this website.

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What is the Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL)?

The Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL) is a new online data query service that provides access via the ABS web site to Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs). CURFs are datasets compiled from ABS surveys which contain the most detailed statistical information available from the ABS. CURF datasets have been confidentialised by removing name and address information, controlling the amount of detail and changing a small number of values to ensure that survey respondents cannot be identified.

Who uses the RADL?

Using RADL, researchers and policy analysts in universities, government departments and the private sector can run secure online queries from their desktops on CURFs they are approved to access. Whilst the CURF remains within the confines of the ABS computing environment, users can submit tailored queries to produce aggregated output according to their research needs. All user activity is monitored and audited by the ABS to ensure that confidentiality requirements are met.

What are the advantages of the RADL?

The RADL currently provides access to a range of basic CURFs that have previously been released on CD-ROM only, as well as new expanded datasets that contain more statistical information than that released on CD-ROM. Users can now access expanded datasets from the 2001 National Health Survey, the 2001 Census of Population and Housing, and the 1997 Time Use Survey. It is expected that the ABS will continue to release expanded datasets via the RADL for most surveys.

As all user activity is monitored, the RADL can also be used to release data that cannot be released on CD-ROM because of confidentiality requirements. In the future, the RADL will also be used to provide access to overseas researchers who previously have not be able to access ABS CURF data.

For more information on the RADL and CURFs, visit the Access to ABS CURFs page on this website.

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The International Microsimulation Conference on Population, Ageing and Health: Modelling Our Future was held 7-12 December in Canberra. The 5 day conference was organised by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM), and Health Canada. The conference was sponsored by the Commonwealth Department of Health & Ageing, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canada Customs and revenue Agency, Statistics Canada and SAS. The primary focus was on microsimulation models and their applications, but other modelling approaches used to examine population ageing and health issues was also presented.

Conference papers are available via the NATSEM website

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Australian Social Trends: Two articles are being prepared by NASU for inclusion in the 2004 edition of Australian Social Trends. The topics are:

  • Mature age workers and the labour market: This article will use data collected in Labour Force Surveys and Supplementary Surveys to examine labour market characteristics of mature age persons, focusing on persons in the labour force. It will compare characteristics of mature age workers with prime age workers, eg. duration of unemployment, retrenchment, status in employment and hours of work.
  • Older persons in the community: This article will use data collected in the 2002 General Social Survey to examine the social interactions of older people, in particular, those living alone and at risk of becoming social isolated. It will look at contact with family and friends, support given to family, involvement in sporting and social activities, use of the Internet, voluntary work, and feelings of safety. It will also look at characteristics that have been identified as barriers to social participation such as health, income, education, employment status, access to transport, proficiency in English and location (city vs rural).

Mature age persons statistical report: This report will present a profile of mature age persons (aged 45-64 years) comprising several components including demography; labour force status and experience; not in the labour force; health; education and training; housing, mobility and transport; social and economic aspects and indicators; Indigenous mature age persons; data from the Department of Families and Community Services; and international comparisons.

Analysis of 2002 General Social Survey: The ABS Analytical Services Branch (ASB) are working on a report presenting results from their analysis of the 2002 General Social Survey (GSS). The report gives details of the characteristics of mature age persons not in the labour force, draws a comparison with those in the labour force. Data are analysed using different techniques including descriptive analysis, a logistic regression model, and a multinomial logit model.

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National Health Survey, Mental Health, Australia (cat. no. 4811.0) was released on 4 December 2003. This publication presents mental health information collected in the National Health Survey (NHS) which was conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) from February to November 2001. The survey was designed to obtain national benchmarks on a wide range of health issues, and to enable the monitoring of changes in health over time. Further details are in National Health Survey, Mental Health, Australia (cat. no. 4811.0), alternatively please contact the National and Information Referral Service on 1300 135 070.

National Health Survey, Injuries, Australia (cat. no. 4384.0) was released on 19 November 2003. This publication presents statistics and analysis of recent injuries reported from a four week period in 2001, as collected as part of the National Health Survey. Information on these recent injuries include where they took place, who was injured, what activity was being performed, what type of event led to the injury, the location and nature of the injury damage resulting, and what action was taken following the injury. Further details are in National Health Survey, Injuries, Australia (cat. no. 4384.0), alternatively please contact the National and Information Referral Service on 1300 135 070.

Sport and Recreation (cat. no. 4156.0) was released on 14 November 2003. This publication presents information for all aspects of sport and examines a selection of recreation activities. Activities such as visiting a museum or library, watching television, reading or involvement in art and craft activities (which will be separately published) have, in the main, been excluded, but all physical leisure activities as well as gambling and other active recreation pursuits like playing arcade games have been included in the study. For more information contact Colin Speechley on (08) 8237 7363 or email:

Participation in Sport and Physical Activities, Australia (cat. no. 4177.0) was released on 8 December 2003. This publication presents information on the number and characteristics of people who participate in a range of sport and physical activities at national and state level, by age, sex, and frequency of participation. For more information contact Benjamin Smith on (08) 8237 7404 or email:

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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.

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Ron Casey
Telephone: (07) 3222 6312
    Assistant Director
    Maryann Wood
    Telephone: (07) 3222 6206

    Mailing address
    National Ageing Statistics Unit (NASU)
    Australian Bureau of Statistics
    GPO Box 9817, BRISBANE QLD 4001

    Fax: (07) 3222 6283

    Commonwealth of Australia 2008

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