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The ABS has published projections of the Australian population to the year 2101, based on a combination of assumptions about future levels of births, deaths and migration. Three main projections (Series A, B and C) have been published, based on different levels of these variables.
Unless otherwise stated, the following analysis uses both Series A and C to illustrate a range, although not the full range, of projected populations. At times only the medium series, Series B, has been used, to simplify the analysis.
Australia's population at 30 June 2002 of 19.7 million people is projected to grow to between 23.0 and 31.4 million people by 2050-51, and to reach between 18.9 and 37.7 million by 2100-01. In Series A (high series) the population is projected to grow throughout the entire projection period, but at declining rates, reaching 31.4 million in 2050-51 and 37.7 million in 2100-01. In Series B (medium series) the population is projected to reach 26.4 million in 2100-01, after peaking at 26.7 million in 2068-69 and then declining gradually. Series C (low series) projects the lowest population for 2100-01, of 18.9 million people. In this scenario the population is projected to peak in 2038-39 at 23.3 million people, and then decline at a slightly faster rate than Series B (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. Throughout the 1990s and early-2000s Australia's annual population growth consistently exceeded 1%. While growth rates of this magnitude are projected to continue for the next 4-15 years (except in Series C), growth will slow for the remainder of the projection period. Series A maintains positive growth throughout the entire projection period, although the rate is projected to decline over time from 1.29% in the first projected year to 0.26% each year in the last five years. This growth is sustained by a relatively high level of fertility combined with high net overseas migration. In Series B and C, in contrast, the population of Australia is projected to experience more rapid declines in growth. Series B projects negative population growth from 2069-70 while Series C projects negative growth from 2039-40. Series B projects an almost constant population size over the middle years of the projection period. The larger negative growth rates projected in Series C reflect the fact that net overseas migration is not sufficient to offset the effect of declining numbers of births combined with an increasing number of deaths.
In Series B, population is projected to increase over the next 50 years in all states and territories except Tasmania and South Australia. Between 2002 and 2051 the population of Queensland is projected to increase by 73%, the Northern Territory by 55% and Western Australia by 49%, well above the projected growth for Australia of 34%.
New South Wales is projected to remain the most populous state in Australia, although its share of Australia's population is projected to fall slightly, from 34% in 2002 to 32% in 2051. In Series B Victoria is projected to be replaced by Queensland as the second most populous state in 2044, with Victoria's share of Australia's population decreasing from 25% to 23% over the next 50 years and Queensland's share increasing from 19% to 24%. Western Australia's share of Australia's population is projected to increase slightly (from 10% in 2002 to 11% in 2051), South Australia's share is projected to fall from 8% to 6%, and Tasmania's share is projected to decrease slightly, from 2% in 2002 to 1% in 2051. Only marginal changes are projected for the Northern Territory (an increase from 1.0% in 2002 to 1.2% in 2051) and the ACT (a decrease from 1.6% in 2002 to 1.5% in 2051).
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 35.9 years in 2001-02 to between 40.4 and 42.3 years in 2020-21 and to between 46.0 and 49.9 years in 2050-51. In 2100-01 the median age of the population is projected to be between 47.5 and 50.5 years.