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This section examines the size, growth, distribution and age structure of the Australian population. There is an emphasis on changes over time, especially changes in the growth rate of the population.
Australia's growth rate of 1.3% for the 12 months to June 2000 was the same as the overall world growth rate. As shown in table 5.2, growth rates for Japan (0.2%), Germany (0.3%), the United Kingdom (0.3%) and New Zealand (0.5%) were considerably lower than that of Australia. In contrast, the populations of Singapore (with a growth rate of 3.6%), Papua New Guinea (2.5%), Hong Kong (SAR of China) (1.8%), Indonesia (1.7%) and India (1.6%) grew at faster rates than Australia's population.
Australia's population of 19.5 million at June 2001 was around 2.2 million greater than in 1991 and over 15.7 million more than the 1901 population of 3.8 million. Graph 5.3 shows the growth in Australia's population since 1788. The main component of Australia's population growth has been natural increase (the difference between births and deaths), which has contributed about two-thirds of the total growth since the beginning of the 20th century. Net overseas migration has also contributed to natural increase, albeit indirectly, through children born to migrants. Components of population growth are discussed in more detail in the next section.
Table 5.4 shows that population growth has not occurred evenly across the states and territories. At Federation, South Australia had nearly twice the population of Western Australia, which in turn had only slightly more people than Tasmania. However, in 1982 Western Australia surpassed South Australia as the fourth most populous state.
Population growth results from natural increase and net overseas migration (net permanent and long-term arrivals and departures plus an adjustment for category jumping (see footnote (b) to table 5.1)).
Australia's population grew from 3.8 million at the beginning of the 20th century to 19.5 million in 2001. During the 1950s Australia experienced consistently high rates of growth, with an average annual increase of 2.3% from 1950 to 1959, while during the 1930s Australia experienced relatively low growth (0.9%).
Natural increase has been the main source of the growth since the beginning of the 20th century, contributing two-thirds of the total increase between 1901 and 2001. Net overseas migration, while a significant source of growth, is more volatile, fluctuating under the influence of government policy as well as political, economic and social conditions in Australia and the rest of the world.
The yearly growth rates due to natural increase and net overseas migration from 1901 to 2001 are shown in graph 5.5.
In 1901 the rate of natural increase was 14.9 persons per 1,000 population. Over the next four decades the rate increased (to a peak of 17.4 per 1,000 population in the years 1912, 1913 and 1914), then declined (to a low of 7.1 per 1,000 population in 1934 and 1935). In the mid to late 1940s the rate increased sharply as a result of the beginning of the baby boom and the immigration of many young people who then had children in Australia, with a plateau of rates of over 13.0 persons per 1,000 population for every year from 1946 to 1962.
Since 1962, falling fertility has led to a fall in the rate of natural increase. In 1971 the rate was 12.7 persons per 1,000 population; a decade later it had fallen to 8.5. In 1996 the rate of natural increase fell below 7 for the first time, with the downward trend continuing from then on. ABS population projections indicate that continued low fertility, combined with the increase in deaths from an ageing population, will result in natural increase falling below zero sometime in the mid 2030s.
Since 1901, the crude death rate has fallen from 12.2 deaths per 1,000 population to 6.6 in 2001. Crude birth and death rates from 1901 to 2001 are shown in graph 5.6.