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Living Arrangements: Future living arrangements
Households of the future
The number of households in Australia is projected to increase over the next 20 years as a result of both population growth (see Australian Social Trends 2001, Population projections for the 21st century), and households becoming smaller and more diverse. Individuals are likely to live in a greater number of household types over a lifetime than in the past. Traditionally, three main living arrangements were experienced across a lifetime: living with parents, living with a partner (for some of this period with children), and living alone in old age if that partner died. Now and into the future, living arrangements across a lifetime may also include living alone or in a group household before forming a long-term partnership, or living as a lone parent or alone after divorce.
While the number of households is projected to increase, the average size of households is projected to continue to decline, from 2.6 people in 1996 to 2.3 people in 2021. Family households are projected to remain the most common household type in 2021 (but are projected to decrease from 73% of households in 1996 to 68% in 2021), followed by lone-person households (increasing from 23% to 28%), and group households (remaining about 4% of all households).
Different life-cycle stages correspond broadly to different living arrangements. As the age structure of the population changes and as trends in marriage, family and work change, living arrangements in Australia will also shift.
PROJECTIONS OF SELECTED LIVING ARRANGEMENTS OF PEOPLE AGED 18-29 YEARS
(b) Regardless of age, living with one or both parents.
(c) Includes living as a usual resident of a non-private dwelling, and living as a related or unrelated individual in either a couple family without children, a couple family with children, a one-parent family or an other family.
(d) Series B projections.
Source: ABS 1999 Household and Family Projections, Australia, 1996-2021.
A number of trends have contributed to make young adulthood a more distinct life-cycle stage than in the past. Individuals aged 18-29 years are now likely to pursue a range of activities before forming partnerships and beginning families of their own. For example, more young adults are participating in school and post-school education, and delaying their departure from the parental home.
Living as a child in a family (with one or both parents) is projected to increase for 18-29 year olds as a whole, from 34% or about 1.1 million in 1996 to 36% or about 1.3 million in 2021. However, within this age group a decline is projected for 18-19 year olds living as a child in a family, from 68% in 1996 to 65% in 2021. Thus, while many young adults are projected to stay in the parental home, others may leave home immediately after school if not undertaking post-compulsory education.
In addition, greater proportions of young adults are projected to be living in more independent arrangements, either before or as an alternative to forming partnerships. The proportion of 18-29 year olds living in group houses is projected to increase from 12% in 1996 to 15% in 2021, and the proportion living alone is projected to increase from 7% to 8% over the same period.
The projected growth in these living arrangements will be accompanied by a corresponding decline in the proportion living as a partner in a couple family (either with or without children). The only exception to this trend is for 25-29 year olds, for whom living as a partner in a couple family without children is projected to stay much the same (26% in 1996 and 27% in 2021).
Over the next 20 years, couple families without children are projected to become the most common of all family types, overtaking couple families with children in 2016 and comprising 42% of families in 2021. This is mainly associated with the ageing of the population, and the fact that by 2021, the large cohort of post-war “baby-boomers” will have entered old age and will no longer have their children residing with them.
In addition, a growing number of couples are choosing to remain childless at younger ages. The work and family roles of women have changed substantially over the last 20 to 30 years, with increasing numbers participating in higher education and the labour force. As a consequence, women are having children later in life (see Australian Social Trends 2001, Older mothers), or not at all. Accordingly, while the number of couple families with children is projected to remain much the same between 1996 and 2021 (around 2.5 million), as a proportion of all families they are projected to decline, from 49% to 40%.
The future composition of families is likely to be influenced not only by increasing numbers of couples without children, but also by increasing numbers of divorced people in the population. One-parent families are projected to increase from about 742,000 in 1996 to about 1.1 million in 2021, comprising 16% of all families in 2021. This increase will inevitably affect the living arrangements of children. While living with both parents will continue to be the most common living arrangement for children aged 0-14 years, the proportion of 0-14 year olds in one-parent families is projected to increase, from 17% in 1996 to 22% in 2021.
PROJECTED NUMBER OF FAMILIES BY FAMILY TYPE
Source: Household and Family Projections, Australia, 1996 to 2021 (cat. no. 3236.0).
As a result of population ageing, greater numbers of people are projected to be aged 65 years and over in the future. Consequently, large increases are projected across all living arrangements for people in this age group.
Most commonly, older people are projected to be living in couple families without children in 2021 (48%). This is associated with converging life expectancy at birth of men and women. The gap between men's and women's life expectancy declined from seven to six years between 1980-1982 and 1997-1999, which suggests that there will be more older couples in the future.1
Despite this, a tendency for women to outlive their partners is projected, with 21% of people (around 837,000) aged 65 years and over projected to be women living alone in 2021, compared with 8% (around 334,000) to be men living alone.
The proportion of older people living in non-private dwellings (such as nursing homes and hostels) is projected to stay much the same between 1996 and 2021, at around 7%. In contrast, due to population growth, the number of older people living in non-private dwellings is projected to increase, from about 157,000 in 1996 to around 293,000 in 2021.
SELECTED LIVING ARRANGEMENTS OF PEOPLE AGED 65 YEARS AND OVER
(a) Series B projections.
Source: Household and Family Projections, Australia, 1996 to 2021 (cat. no. 3236.0).
Future housing needs
Changing patterns in living arrangements and family composition will have a number of implications for future housing needs. As living arrangements diversify, the demand for housing can be expected to be more diverse.
The ageing of the population, and particularly the projected numbers of older people living alone, may lead to the need for more single unit accommodation suited to older people. Extra public housing may be required to meet this need, as there may be more divorces which may impact on people's economic security in old age.2
In addition, if the average size of households continues to decrease, then there may be an increased demand for smaller houses. However, the proportion of households with four or more bedrooms has increased from 18% to 23% between 1988 and 1999.3 This may be associated with greater proportions of young adults living at home, leading to a growing demand for houses with separate space for parents and children. Equally, it could be associated with lifestyle aspirations for large, spacious housing.
The wellbeing of individuals is tied to the support they receive from family and other social networks. For this reason, communities of the future may ideally have a range of housing types, to allow family members at different stages of the life cycle to live in relatively close proximity to one another.4
1 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1985, Deaths, Australia, 1984, cat. no. 3302.0, ABS, Canberra; and Australian Bureau of Statistics 2000, Deaths, Australia, 1999, cat. no. 3302.0, ABS, Canberra.
2 de Vaus, D. 1997, 'Ageing' in Australian Family Profiles: Social and Demographic Patterns, eds de Vaus, D. and Wolcott, I., Australian Institute of Family Studies, Melbourne.
3 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1990, 1988 Housing Survey, cat. no. 4133.0, ABS, Canberra; and Australian Bureau of Statistics 2000, Australian Housing Survey, 1999, cat. no. 4182.0, ABS, Canberra.
4 McDonald, P. 1995, Families in Australia: A Socio-demographic Perspective, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Melbourne.