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Unless otherwise stated the following analysis uses Series A and C to depict a range, although not the full range, of projected populations. At times, to simplify the analysis, only the medium series - Series B - has been used.
Australia's population at June 2004 of 20.1 mill. people is projected to increase to between 24.9 and 33.4 mill. people in 2051, and reach between 22.4 and 43.5 mill. by 2101.
Both Series A and B project continuing population growth throughout the projection period. In Series A the population is projected to reach 33.4 mill. in 2051 and 43.5 mill. in 2101. In Series B the population will reach 28.2 mill. in 2051 and 30.6 mill. in 2101. Series C projects the population to peak in 2048 at 24.9 mill., and then gradually decline to 22.4 mill. in 2101 (graph 5.11).
The growth rate of the population reflects the interaction of the components of population change - natural increase (the excess of births over deaths) and net overseas migration. Since the early-1990s Australia's population grew by between 1.2% and 1.3% per year. Growth rates are projected to decline throughout the projection period in all three main series, remaining above 1.0% for the next ten years (Series B) to 30 years (Series A). Both Series A and B project positive population growth throughout the projection period, although growth rates for both series decline over time and at varying rates. In Series A, Australia's population growth rate gradually declines to 1.00% in 2034 and to 0.42% by the end of the projection period. In Series B, growth decreases at a faster rate, reaching 1.00% in 2014 and 0.11% by 2101. Series C, in contrast, projects a more rapid decline in growth, resulting in zero growth in 2048. Declines in population are projected from 2049 onwards, as assumed levels of net overseas migration are insufficient to compensate for losses due to natural decrease (because of declining births and increasing deaths).
Series B projects continuing population growth over the next 50 years in all states and territories except Tasmania and South Australia. Between 2004 and 2051 the population of Queensland is projected to increase by 77%, the Northern Territory by 75% and Western Australia by 60%, well above the projected growth for Australia of 40%.
New South Wales is projected to remain the most populous state in Australia, although its share of Australia's population will decline slightly, from 33% at June 2004 to 31% in 2051 under Series B. Queensland will replace Victoria in 2041 as the second most populous state, with Queensland's share of Australia's population increasing from 19% to 24% over the next 50 years, and Victoria's share decreasing from 25% to 23%. Western Australia will increase its share of Australia's population from 9.8% at June 2004 to 11.2% in 2051, while South Australia's share will decline from 7.6% to 5.6% over the same period. Similarly, Tasmania's share will decline from 2.4% in 2004 to 1.6% in 2051. The Northern Territory's share will remain more or less the same, increasing marginally from 1.0% to 1.2%. Likewise, the Australian Capital Territory's share will change only marginally, decreasing from 1.6% to 1.4%. These projections are summarised in table 5.12.
Graph 5.13 illustrates the ageing of Australia's population projected to occur over the next 100 years. This is the result of fertility remaining at low levels over a long period of time coupled with increasing life expectancy. The median age of Australia's population is projected to increase from 36.4 years at June 2004 to between 39.9 and 41.7 years in 2021, and to between 44.6 and 48.2 years in 2051. In 2101 the median age of the population is projected to be between 46.2 and 49.3 years.
Ageing of the population affects the relative sizes of different age groups within the population. The proportion of the population aged under 15 years is projected to decrease from 20% (4.0 mill. people) of Australia's population in 2004 to between 13% and 16% (3.3 mill. and 5.4 mill.) in 2051, and to remain at similar proportions thereafter (between 13% and 16% in 2101, or 2.9 mill. to 6.8 mill. people). In contrast, the proportion of the population aged 50 years and over is projected to increase, from 30% (6.0 mill. people) in 2004 to between 44% and 48% (11.9 mill. and 14.6 mill.) in 2051, and 46% and 49% (11.0 mill. and 19.9 mill.) in 2101. As a consequence, the age structure of the population will be noticeably different by 2051, as shown in graph 5.13.
Table 5.14 presents a range of indicators, such as population size and age structure, to illustrate changes in Australia's population from 1901 to 2101.