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POPULATION SIZE AND GROWTH
Over the past decade, Australia's ERP has grown by 14.5% or 2.7 million people. The growth of Australia's population has two components: natural increase (the excess of births over deaths) and net overseas migration (i.e., net gain or loss of population through immigration to Australia and emigration from Australia). For state and territory estimates, a third component, net interstate migration, is also included. Since Federation in 1901, Australia's population has increased by 17.6 million people. Graph 7.2 shows the growth in Australia's population since Federation.
Over the last 50 years, population growth has occurred unevenly across the states and territories (table 7.3). Consequently, the proportion of Australia's population resident in each state and territory has changed over time. From 1958 to 2008, the proportion of the Australian population living in the following states decreased: New South Wales (from 37.5% to 32.5%), Victoria (from 27.6% to 24.8%), South Australia (9.1% to 7.5%) and Tasmania (3.4% to 2.3%). The proportion of Australia's population living in all other states and territories increased over the same period, with Queensland increasing from 14.6% to 20.0%, Western Australia from 7.1% to 10.1%, 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 1982.
Components of population growth
The Australian population has more than doubled from 9.8 million in 1958 to 21.4 million in 2008. Since the start of the ERP measure in 1971, natural increase has been the main component of population growth in Australia. However, in the last three years net overseas migration has been the larger contributor to population growth. Net overseas migration, is more volatile than natural increase, fluctuating under the influence of government policy as well as political, economic and social conditions in Australia and the rest of the world.
Annual growth at 30 June due to natural increase and net overseas migration from 1972 to 2008 is shown in graph 7.4.
In 1972, the excess of births over deaths resulted in a natural increase of 161,800 persons. Declining fertility led to a fall in natural increase at around 110,000 to 130,000 before peaking at 141,600 in 1991. Natural increase again dropped to a low of 114,420 persons in 2003. In recent years due to an increase in births, there has been a rise in natural increase to 145,600 persons in 2008. Since 2006, net overseas migration has contributed more people to the population than natural increase, adding 213,700 people in 2008.
In 2008 the crude death rate was 6.7 deaths per 1,000 population, falling from 8.3 in 1972. The crude birth rate declined from 19.9 births per 1,000 population in 1972 to 13.8 in 2008. The lowest crude birth rate during this period, 12.4 births per 1,000 population, was recorded in 2004. Crude birth and death rates from 1972 to 2008 are shown in graph 7.5.
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 7.6 shows the proportions of the population by age group and sex in 1958 and 2008, illustrating the ageing of Australia's population. Australia's population is ageing because of sustained below replacement level fertility, resulting in proportionally fewer children in the population, and increased life expectancy, resulting in proportionally more older people in the population.
In 1958 there were 110,800 more males than females in Australia's population, while in 2008 there were 109,900 more females than males. Since 1979 Australia has been home to more females than males. At 30 June 2008, the sex ratio of Australia's population was 99.0 males per 100 females.
In 1958 people aged 0-14 years represented 30.0% of Australia's population, while those aged 15-64 years represented 61.5%, those aged 65 years and over represented 8.5% and those aged 85 years and over represented 0.4%. Although Australia's population continued to grow since 1958, the proportion of children aged 0-14 years decreased to 19.3% by 2008. In contrast, the proportion of people aged 15-64 years increased to 67.5% and the proportion of the population aged 65 years or more increased to 13.2%. The proportion of those aged 85 years and over increased four-fold to 1.7% (graph 7.7).
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 2008 the median age of the Australian population was 36.9 years, an increase of 5.3 years over the median age of 31.6 years in 1988. Graph 7.8 shows the median ages of the population of the states and territories in 1988 and 2008.
In 2008 the population of Tasmania had the highest median age of all states and territories (39.4 years), closely followed by South Australia (39.0 years). The Northern Territory (31.1 years) had the lowest median age in 2008.
Tasmania experienced the largest increase in median age over the 20 years to 2008, increasing by 8.0 years from 31.4 years in 1988 to 39.4 years in 2008. The next largest increase was South Australia, increasing by 6.3 years, from 32.7 years in 1988 to 39.0 years in 2008.
In 2008 there were just over 2.8 million people aged 65 years or more in Australia, an increase of 67,700 people (2.5%) over 2007. All states and territories experienced growth in this age group, with the Northern Territory experiencing the greatest increase (6.6%) (table 7.9).
The number of people aged 85 years and over in Australia has increased by 6.0% from 2007 to 2008, now equalling just over 362,000. Again, growth in this age group occurred in all states and territories, with the Northern Territory experiencing the greatest increase of 9.8% closely followed by the Australian Capital Territory (9.6%).