3222.0 - Population Projections, Australia, 1997 to 2051  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 01/09/1999   
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September 1, 1999
Embargoed 11:30am (AEST)

Labour force ageing, growth likely to slow

A slowing rate of growth and an ageing profile are likely to characterise the Australian labour force over the period to 2016, according to projections released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Annual labour force growth could slow to 0.4% by 2016, compared with average growth of 1.9% per year from 1979 to 1998. Despite this slower growth, over the period 1998 to 2016 the labour force could rise by 16% or 1.5 million, to 10.8 million.

As 'baby boomers' pass into middle age and beyond, the labour force will age, too. People aged 45 and over may account for more than 80% of growth in Australia's labour force to 2016. The group aged 45 to 54 may grow by nearly 500,000. While 10% of the labour force were aged 55 years or over in 1998, that proportion is projected to rise to 15% by 2016. The teenage labour force is the only age group projected to fall.

Women are projected to contribute 58% of the growth in the labour force. Women's participation in the labour force is projected to rise in every age group except those aged 15 to 19 and those aged 65 or more. Participation by women in age groups between 25 and 54 is projected to increase by between 6 and 7 percentage points over the period 1998 to 2016.

In contrast, labour force participation rates for men are projected to fall in every age group except for those aged 60 and over. For men aged 45 to 54, participation is projected to decline slightly, by half a percentage point. For those aged 15 to 19, participation is projected to decline from 58% to 55% by 2016.

Overall, the labour force participation rate is projected to decline to 60.6%, a level last seen in 1984.

The labour force projections were produced by applying trends in labour force participation rates for each sex by age group to the ABS's recently published population projections in Population Projections, Australia 1997-2051 (cat. no. 3222.0).

Full details are in Labour Force Projections, Australia, 1999-2016 (cat. no. 6260.0) available from ABS Bookshops. A summary of findings from the publication is also available on this site. The ABS encourages media organisations with online news services to link to the main findings. Please phone us if you need assistance to do this.