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POPULATION SIZE AND GROWTH
When compared with other countries, Australia's population growth rate was similar to New Zealand (1.1%); higher than Canada (0.9%), the United States of America (0.9%), and Hong Kong (0.7%); 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 (2.4%) and Malaysia (1.9%). China (0.6%), ranked as the largest population, 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 2004 and project a fall to 64th position by 2050.
Australia's estimated resident population of 20.1 million at 30 June 2004 has grown by nearly 2.2 million persons 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 has increased by 16.4 million persons. Graph 5.3 shows the growth in Australia's population since European settlement in 1788.
Table 5.4 shows that population growth has not occurred evenly across the states and territories. The proportion of Australia's population resident in each state and territory has changed over time. From 1954 to 2004 the proportion of the Australian population living within New South Wales, the most populous state, decreased (from 38% to 33%), as did Victoria (from 27% to 25%), South Australia (9% to 8%) and Tasmania (3% to 2%). All other states and territories show an increase over this same time. The proportion of Australia's population living in Queensland increased from 15% in 1954 to 19% in 2004. Likewise, during the same period Western Australia experienced an increase from 7% to 10%, the Australian Capital Territory from less than 1% to 2% and the Northern Territory from less than 1% in 1954 to 1% in 2004. Western Australia became the fourth most populous state in 1983, overtaking South Australia.
COMPONENTS OF POPULATION GROWTH
Over the last 50 years the population has more than doubled from a resident population of 9 million in 1954 to over 20 million in 2004. Natural increase has been the main component of population growth in Australia over the past 50 years, 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.
The yearly growth rates due to natural increase and net overseas migration from 1954 to 2004 are shown in graph 5.5.
Fifty years ago, Australia was in the midst of a baby boom. In 1954 the rate of natural increase was 13.4 persons per 1,000 population, peaking at 14.3 in 1961. After 1962, declining fertility led to a fall in the rate of natural increase. The rate of natural increase rose in the late-1960s, reaching a peak of 13.1 persons per 1,000 population in 1971; a decade later it had fallen to 8.6. In 1996 the rate of natural increase fell below 7.0 for the first time in Australia's history. This downward trend continued, reaching 6.1 persons per 1,000 population in 2004. ABS population projections suggest that continued low fertility, combined with an increase in deaths due to an ageing population, would result in natural increase falling below zero sometime in the mid-2030s.
In 2004 the crude death rate was 6.6 deaths per 1,000 population, falling from 9.1 in 1954. The crude birth rate has declined from 22.5 births per 1,000 population recorded in 1954 to 12.7 in 2004. The lowest ever birth rate, just over 12.6 births per 1,000 population, was recorded in 2003. Crude birth and death rates from 1954 to 2004 are shown in graph 5.6.
POPULATION AGE AND SEX STRUCTURE
Over the last 50 years the absolute number of persons has increased in all age groups. However, the proportion of the total population in older age groups has increased while the proportion in younger age groups has declined. Graph 5.7 shows the proportions of the population by age group and sex in 1954 and 2004, illustrating the ageing of Australia's population. Australia's population is ageing because of sustained low fertility - which has resulted in proportionally fewer children in the population - and increased life expectancy.
5.7 AGE DISTRIBUTION OF POPULATION - 1954 and 2004
(a) The 85+ age group includes all ages 85 years and over and is not directly comparable with the other 5-year age groups.
Source: Australian Historical Population Statistics (3105.0.65.001); Population by Age and Sex, Australian States and Territories (3201.0).
In 1954 there were 105,700 more males than females in Australia's population, while in 2004 there were 122,200 more females than males. Since 1979 Australia has been home to more females than males.
In 1954, people under 15 years of age represented 28.6% of Australia's population. Those aged 15-64 years represented 63% and those aged 65 years and over represented 8%. Although Australia's population has continued to grow since 1954, the proportion of people aged 15-64 years increased to 67% in 2004. During this period the proportion of children 0-14 years decreased to 20%, although their absolute numbers increased, while the proportion of the population aged 65 years or more increased to 13% (graph 5.8).
The median age of the Australian population (the age at which half the population is older and half is younger) has increased by 5.9 years in the last 20 years from 30.5 years in 1984 to 36.4 years in 2004. Graph 5.9 shows the median ages of the population for the states and territories in 1984 and 2004.
In 2004 the population of South Australia had the highest median age of all states and territories (38.5 years) followed by Tasmania (38.4 years) and New South Wales (36.6 years). The Northern Territory (30.6 years) had the lowest median age.
Tasmania experienced the largest increase in median age over the 20 years to 2004, increasing by 8.5 years from 29.9 years in 1984 to 38.4 years in 2004. The next largest increase was South Australia at 7.1 years, increasing from 31.4 years in 1984 to 38.5 years in 2004.
There were just over 2.6 million people (13% of the total population) in Australia aged 65 years or more in June 2004, an increase of 58,500 people (2%) from June 2003 with all states and territories experiencing growth in this age group. The Northern Territory (6%), the Australian Capital Territory (3%) and Western Australia (3%) experienced the greatest increase in persons aged 65 years or more.