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How many people live in Australia's remote areas?
In addition to providing a picture of population distribution in Australia, the Remoteness Structure meets demand for a standard classification with which to analyse differences according to remoteness, including demographic variables such as sex and age. At 30 June 2001, women outnumbered men in Major Cities and Inner Regional areas, with sex ratios of 97 males per 100 females, and 98 males per 100 females respectively. The reverse was true in the more remote areas, where male-dominated industries tend to prevail. The median age was highest in Inner Regional areas (37.3 years), followed by Outer Regional areas (36.5 years) and Major Cities (35.2 years). The median age was lowest in Very Remote Areas at 28.8 years.
Variations in median age across Remoteness Areas are due to underlying differences in their age profiles. Consistent with the recognised pattern of young people migrating from country areas to cities for educational and employment opportunities, footnote 3 Major Cities had the highest proportion of young adults aged 15-24 years (14%) as at 30 June 2001, while Outer Regional and Remote areas had the lowest proportions of young adults (12% and 11% respectively). Inner Regional and Outer Regional areas had the highest proportions of older people aged 65 years and over, while the lowest proportions of older people were resident in Remote and Very Remote areas (10% and 8% respectively). The lower cost of living in Inner and Outer Regional areas compared to city areas, in combination with their larger number of services for the aged compared to remote areas, footnote 4 may have contributed to this pattern.
Family characteristics also vary by Remoteness Area, with the presence of different family types closely linked to age distribution. In 2001 older couples without children (where the male partner was aged 55 years or over) comprised almost one-quarter of families in Inner Regional and Outer Regional areas (24% and 23% respectively), compared with 20% nationally. By contrast, this family type accounted for just 12% of families in Very Remote areas. Very Remote areas had the highest proportions of both couple families with children (49%) and one-parent families (17%). Families with children in Very Remote areas were also more likely to contain more children than those in less remote areas; the average number of children (aged under 15 years) increased across Remoteness Areas from 1.8 in Major City areas to 2.1 in Very Remote areas. This reflects a clear gradation of increasing fertility from city areas to remote and regional areas, footnote 5 largely due to fertility differentials at younger ages.
1 ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2001, Statistical Geography, Volume 1: Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), 2001, cat. no. 1216.0, ABS, Canberra.
2 ABS 2003, 'Population characteristics and remoteness' in Australian Social Trends, 2003, cat. no. 4102.0, ABS, Canberra, pp. 7-11.
3 ABS 2003, 'Youth migration within Australia' and 'Regional differences in education and outcomes' in Australian Social Trends, 2003, cat. no. 4102.0, ABS, Canberra, pp. 22-25 and pp. 91-95.
4 Strong, K, Trickett, P, Titulaer, I & Bhatia, K 1998, Health in rural and remote Australia, AIHW, Canberra.
5 ABS 2002, Births, Australia, 2001, cat. no. 3301.0, ABS, Canberra, p. 36.
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