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At 30 June 2001 there were an estimated 7.4 million households in Australia which were home to an estimated 19.1 million people, or 98% of the resident population. Over the past 90 years the number of households has increased by an average 2.4% per year, compared with an average yearly increase in population of 1.6%. This is reflected by the fall in average household size over the period - from 4.5 persons per household in 1911 to 2.6 persons per household in 2001 (graph 5.57). Much of this decline can be attributed to reductions in completed family size and the increase in numbers of one and two-person households. The number of one-person households has grown largely as a result of the ageing of the population, while a combination of ageing, increased childlessness among couples and an increase in the number of one-parent families have contributed to the increase in the number of two-person households.
Over the past decade there have been changes in the types of families in Australia. In 1991 there were 4.3 million families counted in the census; by 2001 this number had increased to 4.9 million families. Couple families with children were the most common type of family at both points in time. However, as a proportion of all families they have decreased, from 53.7% (2.3 million families) in 1991 to 47.0% (also 2.3 million families) in 2001 (graph 5.58).
Other family types have significantly increased in number over the past 10 years. The number of couple families without children, comprising couples who have not yet had children and also those couples whose children have left home ('empty-nesters'), increased by 30%, from 1.4 million families in 1991 to 1.8 million families in 2001. One-parent families also increased, from 552,000 in 1991 to 763,000 in 2001, an increase of 38%.
Household and family projections
Household and family projections are estimates of future numbers of households and families, based on assumptions about changing living arrangements of the population. The ABS has published three series (I, II and III) of projections, for the years 2001 to 2026. In Series I the pattern of living arrangements as determined from the 2001 census is the same throughout the projection period. In Series II and III, recent trends in living arrangements are incorporated into the projections. In Series II the rates of change in living arrangements experienced over the past four censuses are applied at reducing levels (in full for 2001 to 2006, then reducing rates thereafter), while in Series III the rate of change between 1986 and 2001 is applied in full throughout the projection period.
It should be noted estimates of the numbers of families in 2001 in the discussion below are derived from 2001 estimated resident population data in conjunction with 2001 census data, and therefore differ from the 2001 census counts of families mentioned above.
The projections show continuing growth in the number of households in Australia over the period, from 7.4 million in 2001 to between 10.2 million and 10.8 million by 2026 (graph 5.59), representing an overall increase of between 39% and 47% compared with population growth of 25% over the same period. As a result, average household size in Australia is projected to decrease from 2.6 persons per household in 2001 to between 2.2 and 2.3 persons per household in 2026.
The projected decrease in average household size reflects changes in the different types of households over the next 25 years. Lone-person households are projected to increase from 1.8 million in 2001 to between 2.8 million and 3.7 million in 2026, to comprise just over a quarter (28%) to a third (34%) of all households in 2026, compared with a quarter (25%) in 2001. The ageing of the population, increases in separation and divorce, and the delay of marriage are some of the factors contributing to the growth in lone-person households.
While lone-person households are projected to grow the fastest of all household types, family households are projected to remain the most common household type, increasing from 5.3 million in 2001 to between 6.7 million and 7.0 million in 2026 (between 62% and 69% of all households in 2026, compared with 72% in 2001) (graph 5.60).
Between 2001 and 2026 the number of couple families with children is projected to increase only slowly in both Series I and II and to decrease in Series III, reflecting a gradual trend away from this type of family. This trend is related to increasing numbers of couple families without children (as a result of the ageing of the population, declining fertility and delayed childbirth) and increasing numbers of one-parent families (as a result of increased family break-up). In 2001 there were 2.5 million couple families with children, accounting for just under half (47%) of all families in Australia. In Series I, which assumes current living arrangements of the population continue until 2026, this number is projected to increase to 3.0 million in 2026 (42% of all families), while in Series III, which assumes changes in living arrangements observed between 1986 and 2001 continue at the full rate until 2026, the number is projected to decrease to 2.0 million (30% of all families) (table 5.61).
Couple families without children are projected to experience the largest and fastest increases of all family types in Australia. As a result, in Series II and III, couple families without children are projected to outnumber couple families with children in either 2011 or 2010 respectively. From 1.9 million families in 2001 (36% of all families), couple families without children are projected to increase to between 2.9 million and 3.3 million families in 2026 (41% and 49% of all families respectively). This growth is primarily related to the ageing of the population, with 'baby boomers' becoming 'empty nesters', and to a lesser extent to delayed family formation and declining fertility of younger couples.
One-parent families are projected to increase from 838,000 families in 2001 to between 1.1 million and 1.4 million families in 2026. In 2001 the number of female one-parent families (698,000) was around five times greater than the number of male one-parent families (140,000). This difference is projected to continue throughout the projection period.