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Newsletters - Age Matters - Issue Number 8, June 2004


Welcome to the June 2004 issue of Age Matters.

The impacts of an ageing population cannot be fully understood without access to better information, particularly that based on empirical evidence. In particular there is a need for quantitative data to help explain and understand the economic and social changes occurring across Australia. An important element of the ABS's work is to facilitate, through an Information Development Plan (IDP) process, the utilisation of administrative and other non-ABS datasets to bridge gaps in the existing data pool of ageing-relevant statistics, and improving the quality, coverage and use of such statistics, where required.

An IDP is a framework that scopes the field of statistics in a given subject area; identifies significant requirements for statistical information in that field; documents the availability of statistics to partially or fully meet that need; and identifies the areas where new statistics need to be developed to more fully satisfy that need. Ultimately a partnership is sought whereby the ABS, with other producers of statistics, can assist in meeting high priority data needs with other producers of statistics. Significant work has been undertaken on the development of the Ageing IDP and we will be seeking feedback in coming months.

In this edition you will find informative articles on:

  • household and family projections;
  • disability, and
  • cardiovascular disease.

Any comments or suggestions on improving our newsletter are always welcome.

Maryann Wood

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The following preliminary findings have been taken from the ABS publication
Household and Family Projections, Australia (cat. no. 3236.0), which was released on 18 June 2004. This publication presents projections of households, families and living arrangements from 2001 to 2026. The projections are based on assumptions about changing living arrangements of the population. Three series (I, II and III) have been produced.

Increase in number of households

The number of households in Australia is projected to increase from 7.4 million in 2001 to between 10.2 and 10.8 million in 2026, an increase of between 39% and 47%. This growth is faster than Australia's projected population growth of 25% for the same period.

Lone person households are projected to show the greatest percentage increase of all household types over the 25-year projection period. This is related to the ageing of the population and the fact that older women, in particular, are more likely to live alone than others. The number of lone person households is projected to increase by between 57% and 105%, from 1.8 million households in 2001 to between 2.8 million and 3.7 million households in 2026.

Average household size

The average household size in Australia is projected to decline from 2.6 people per household in 2001 to between 2.2 and 2.3 people per household in 2026. Australia's household size (2.5) in 2011 is projected to be smaller than New Zealand (2.6) and Japan (2.6), the same as the United States of America (2.5) and Canada (2.5), and larger than England (2.2).

Living arrangements of older people (aged 75 years and over)

In 2001 there were 1.1 million people aged 75 years and over in Australia, representing 6% of the total population. Over the period 2001 to 2026 this number is projected to more than double, to 2.5 million people (10% of Australia's population).

In 2001, 40% (447,000 people) of older Australians were living with a partner; 36% were partners in couple only families and 4% were partners in couple families with children. People living alone accounted for a further 34% (383,000) of older Australians while 13% (142,000) lived in non-private dwellings (NPDs).

By 2026 the number of older Australians living with a partner is projected to increase to between 957,000 and 1,200,000 people (39% and 49% of all people aged 75 years and over, respectively). The number of people living alone is projected to increase to between 844,000 and 962,000, accounting for between 34% and 39% of older Australians.

For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or Matthew Montgomery (02) 6252 6487.

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The following preliminary findings have been taken from the ABS publication
Disability, Australia (cat. no. 4446.0), which was released on 11 May 2004. Final and more comprehensive results are expected to be published in September 2004 in Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings, Australia, 2003 (cat. no 4430.0).

The statistics shown in this publication provide a summary of disability prevalence in Australia. As the results are preliminary they may be subject to change as further processing of the data is undertaken.

Disability rates

The 2003 SDAC estimates that one in five Australians (3,951,000 or 20%) had a disability. This rate was the same for males and females. The rate increased with age, reaching 81% for those aged 85 years and over. The age-standardised disability rates for total males, females and persons showed little change between 1998 and 2003 and the pattern across age groups was very similar in these two years.

The 2003 SDAC found that one in seventeen people (5.9%) had a profound or severe level of core activity limitation (i.e. they needed help with one or more self-care, mobility or communication activities), a slightly smaller proportion than in 1998 (6.4%). However, the rate for persons aged 85 years and over dropped more substantially, from 65% in 1998 to 54% in 2003, with the decrease more marked for males than females.

The pattern of prevalence of profound or severe level of core activity limitation differed across age groups from that of the overall disability population. There was a gradual increase in the rate for age groups 0-4 years (2.8%) through to 65-69 years (9.4%) but it then increased sharply to 54% of those aged 85 years and over. This contrasted with the overall disability rate which increased steadily from 4% of 0-4 year olds to 41% of 65-69 year olds and 81% of those aged 85 years and over.

ALL PERSONS, Disability status, 1998 and 2003
Graph: ALL PERSONS, Disability status, 1998 and 2003


People with a disability were less likely to have completed a higher educational qualification than those without a disability. In 2003, one in five people aged 15-64 years living in households who had no disability had completed a bachelor degree or higher, compared to one in eight people (13%) with a disability.


Employment-related findings, for people aged 15-64 years living in households, from the 2003 SDAC include:
    • those with a profound level of core activity limitation had a much lower labour force participation rate (15%) than people without a disability (81%)
    • people with a disability had a higher unemployment rate (8.6%) than those without a disability (5.0%)
    • people with a disability who were employed were more likely to work in a part-time job (37%) than those who were employed and did not have a disability (29%).

For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or
Ken Black on (02) 6252 7430.

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In 2001,

    • 17% (3.2 million) of people reported having cardiovascular disease as a long-term condition.
    • the prevalence rate of cardiovascular disease increased with age, peaking at 40% for people aged 65 years and over.
    • Of Indigenous Australians aged 35-44 years, 16% reported a cardiovascular condition. The rate increased to 31% for those aged 45 to 54 years, and to 47% for those aged 55 years and over.
    • the prevalence of hypertension increased rapidly from age 35 years, with the onset approximately 10 years younger for the non-Indigenous population.
    • rates of prevalence were highest among those who were born in Southern-Eastern Europe (29.9%), North-West Europe (23.7%) and United Kingdom (23.7%) than those born in Australia (15.9%), North Africa and Middle East (13.6%) and South East Asia (13.0%).
    • over half the people who reported having cardiovascular disease (54%) also reported having diabetes.
Persons reporting cardiovascular disease(a), 2001
Graph: Persons reporting cardiovascular disease(a), 2001

For further information about these and related statistics refer to
Cardiovascular Disease in Australia: A Snapshot (Cat. no. 4821.0.55.001), which was released on the 16 June 2004.

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In November 2003,

    • Close to a third (32%) of people participating in the labour force were mature age (those aged 45-64 years), up from 24% in 1983.
    • There were 3.2 million mature age workers, of which, just over a quarter (26%) were employed part-time, compared with 28% of all employed people. Some 11% of male mature age workers were employed part-time compared with 45% of their female counterparts.
    • The Education industry employed the highest proportion of mature age workers, with 47% employed in this industry aged 45-64 years. Other industries with higher proportions of mature age workers include Agriculture, forestry and fishing (44%) and Health and community services (42%).
    • The unemployment rate for 45-64 year olds was 3.5% representing 114,000 people in this age group who were looking and available to work, compared with an overall unemployment rate of 5.4%.
    • Among unemployed 45-64 year olds, the proportion who were long-term unemployed (i.e. had been unemployed for 52 weeks or more), was nearly twice as high (40%) as the proportion for all unemployed people (23%).

For further details, refer to the article 'Mature age workers' included in
Australian Social Trends (cat. no. 4102.0), released on 15 June 2004.

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How do commercial and social entrepreneurs see the ageing of Australia? What new initiatives are emerging around work and job creation for mature workers, retirement incomes and security, living arrangements and accommodation, living options for people with high support needs, and interaction across the generations?

This workshop will be held on 21 July at Chifley Square in Sydney. It will have a practical orientation towards identifying entrepreneurial initiatives and projects, exploring issues such as individual savings accounts, matched savings accounts, asset-based welfare, regional savings and investment instruments, retirement income instruments, multi-stakeholder business ownership models, job and business creation for mature workers, funding and investment options in aged care, mutual models of aged care and support, superannuation reform and many more.

Workshop outline and registration are available at the Social Enterprise Partnerships website.

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The second issue of
Measures of Australia's Progress (cat. no. 1370.0) was released on 21 April 2004. It is an ABS contribution to the national discussion about whether life in Australia is getting better.

Measures of Australia's Progress covers: Health, Education, Work, National income, Financial hardship, National wealth, National wealth, Housing, Productivity, The natural landscape, The human environment (air quality), Oceans and estuaries, International environmental concerns (Greenhouse), Family, community and social cohesion, Crime, Democracy, governance and citizenship.

Headline indicators that summarise progress in each area are included for most dimensions: health, for example, uses life expectancy at birth; national income uses real net national disposable income per capita. Commentary that accompanies the indicators discusses trends in progress together with differences within Australia and the factors influencing change. The aspects of national progress are linked with one another. Changes in one aspect will be associated with changes in many others — sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.

Older people, ageing and progress

Much of the information in MAP is broken down by age, and MAP 2004 contains a good deal of information pertinent to older Australians and the ageing population. For instance:

    • The Health commentary discusses trends in life expectancy at birth, the proportions of Australians living to certain ages, and information about cancer and heart attacks.
    • The Family, community and social cohesion commentary discusses changes in the numbers of people living alone, and the number of people caring for the elderly.
    • An article on Multiple disadvantage discusses the patterns of, and associations between, various aspects of disadvantage as they affect different population groups, including men and women older than 65 and older people living alone.
    • An article on Population, participation and productivity discusses the way demographic change, labour force participation rates and productivity determine national income.

Measures of Australia's Progress is freely available on the ABS website. Go to and you will see a link to the publication (under the "Statistical Products and Services" heading). Printed copies are available from the ABS.

For more information, contact Jon Hall in Canberra on (02) 6252 7221 or email

Australian Social Trends
(cat. no. 4102.0) was released on 15 June 2004. This annual publication presents statistical analysis and commentary on a wide range of current social issues. The 30 plus articles are organised into eight chapters, representing the following broad areas of interest: population; family and community; health; education and training; work; economic resources; and housing, as well as a chapter of articles covering other areas of social concern. Each chapter is supported by a set of summary tables including key social indicators which provide an overview of social change over the past decade, as well as how social conditions differ across Australian states and territories. A set of international tables also compares Australia with 17 other nations.

Further details are in
Australian Social Trends (cat. no. 4102.0). For further enquiries please contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.

Working Arrangements, Australia
(cat. no 6342.0) was released on 9 June 2004. This publication provides information on characteristics of working arrangements of employed persons, including the flexibility of working arrangements and shift work. Among the topics covered are full-time/part-time status, industry, occupation, hours worked, flex time, rostered days off, overtime, absences from work, types of leave used, weekly earnings, availability of child care and information about core employment benefits, such as leave entitlements. Estimates can be cross-classified by labour force demographics such as state, sex, age, marital status and birthplace.

Further details are in
Working Arrangements, Australia (cat. no. 6342.0). For further enquiries please contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.

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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.

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 6250

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Commonwealth of Australia 2008

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