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POPULATION SIZE AND GROWTH
Compared with other countries, Australia's growth rate was higher than New Zealand (1.0%), Canada (0.9%), United States of America (0.9%) and Hong Kong (0.6%); considerably higher than the United Kingdom (0.3%), Japan (0.1%) and Germany (0.0%); and well below the growth rates for Papua New Guinea (2.3%) and Malaysia (1.8%). China (0.6%), the world's most populous nation, had a growth rate half that of Australia.
Figures provided by the US Census Bureau's International Data Base for 227 countries rank Australia's population 52nd in size for the year 2005 and project a fall to 64th position by 2050.
Australia's estimated resident population of 20.3 mill. at June 2005 has grown by nearly 2.3 mill. people or 12.5% during the past decade. The growth of Australia's population has two components: natural increase (the number of births minus the number of deaths) and net overseas migration (net permanent and long-term migration). For state and territory estimates, a third component - net interstate migration - is also included. Since Federation in 1901, Australia's population increased by 16.6 mill. people. Graph 5.3 shows the growth in Australia's population since European settlement in 1788.
Population growth has occurred unevenly across all states and territories (table 5.4). Consequently, the proportion of Australia's population resident in each state and territory has changed over time. From 1955 to 2005, the proportion of the Australian population living in New South Wales decreased (from 37.9% to 33.3%), as did Victoria (from 27.4% to 24.7%), South Australia (8.9% to 7.6%) and Tasmania (3.4% to 2.4%). The proportion of Australia's population living in all other states and territories increased over the same period, with Queensland increasing from 14.7% to 19.5%, Western Australia from 7.1% to 9.9%, the Australian Capital Territory from 0.4% to 1.6% and the Northern Territory from 0.2% to 1.0%. Western Australia overtook South Australia to become the fourth most populous state in 1983.
COMPONENTS OF POPULATION GROWTH
Over the last 50 years the population more than doubled from 9.2 mill. in 1955 to 20.3 mill. in 2005. Natural increase has been the main component of population growth in Australia over this period, contributing around two-thirds of the total increase. 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.
Yearly growth rates due to natural increase and net overseas migration from 1955 to 2005 are shown in graph 5.5.
Fifty years ago, Australia was in the midst of a baby boom. In 1955, the crude rate of natural increase was 13.7 people per 1,000 population. The rate then increased to a peak of 14.3 in 1961, after which, declining fertility led to a fall in the rate of natural increase. The rate of natural increase rose again in the late-1960s, reaching a peak of 12.7 people per 1,000 population in 1971. A decade later the rate had fallen to 8.5. In 1996 the rate of natural increase fell below 7.0 for the first time in Australia's history. This downward trend continued, reaching the lowest recorded rate of natural increase (6.0 people per 1,000 population) in 2002 and 2003. In recent years there has been a slight rise in the rate to 6.6 people per 1,000 population in 2005. Nonetheless, ABS population projections suggest that continued sub-replacement fertility, combined with an increase in deaths due to an ageing population, will result in natural increase falling below zero around the middle of this century.
In 2005 the crude death rate was 6.4 deaths per 1,000 population, falling from 8.9 in 1955. The crude birth rate declined from 22.6 births per 1,000 population in 1955 to 13.0 in 2005. The lowest crude birth rate during this period, 12.6 births per 1,000 population, was recorded in 2003. Crude birth and death rates from 1955 to 2005 are shown in graph 5.6.
POPULATION AGE AND SEX STRUCTURE
Over the last 50 years the absolute number of people increased in all age groups. However, the proportion of the population in older age groups increased while the proportion in younger age groups declined. Graph 5.7 shows the proportions of the population by age group and sex in 1955 and 2005, illustrating the ageing of Australia's population. Australia's population is ageing because of sustained low fertility, resulting in proportionally fewer children in the population, and increased life expectancy, resulting in proportionally more older people in the population.
5.7 AGE DISTRIBUTION OF POPULATION - 1995 and 2005
In 1955 there were 112,900 more males than females in Australia's population, while in 2005 there were 96,900 more females than males. Since 1979 Australia has been home to more females than males. At June 2005, the sex ratio of Australia's population was 99.1 males per 100 females.
People aged 0-14 years represented 29.0% of Australia's population in 1955, while those aged 15-64 years represented 62.6% and those aged 65 years and over represented 8.4%. Although Australia's population continued to grow since 1955, the proportion of children aged 0-14 years decreased to 19.6% by 2005. In contrast, the proportion of people aged 15-64 years increased to 67.3% by 2005 and the proportion of the population aged 65 years or more increased to 13.1% (graph 5.8).
The change in the age structure of Australia's population over time is illustrated by the change in the median age (the age at which half the population is older and half is younger). In 2005 the median age of the Australian population was 36.6 years, an increase of 5.8 years over the median age of 30.8 years in 1985. Graph 5.9 shows the median ages of the population by states and territories in 1985 and 2005.
In 2005 the population of South Australia had the highest median age of all states and territories (38.8 years), closely followed by Tasmania (38.7 years). The Northern Territory (30.9 years) had the lowest median age in 2005.
Tasmania experienced the largest increase in median age over the 20 years to 2005, increasing by 8.6 years from 30.1 years in 1985 to 38.7 years in 2005. The next largest increase was South Australia at 7.1 years, from 31.7 years in 1985 to 38.8 years in 2005.
In 2005 there were just over 2.7 mill. people aged 65 years or more in Australia, an increase of 63,100 people (2.4%) over 2004. All states and territories experienced growth in this age group, with the Northern Territory (6.8%) and the Australian Capital Territory (3.9%) experiencing the greatest increases (table 5.10).