3228.0.55.001 - Population Estimates: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2009  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/06/2009   
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Contents >> Overview >> Other population concepts


1.35 There are a range of other concepts (in addition to Census counts and the estimated resident population) that can be used to determine what the population of a given area is. The following paragraphs discuss some of the concepts behind legal populations, economic populations and service populations. However, the definitions of what these populations are may vary according to the particular situations and purposes for which they are needed.

Legal population

1.36 Conceptually, the legal population of Australia would primarily consist of persons with Australian citizenship, irrespective of whether these persons are actually resident in Australia at a given time. However estimation of what the legal population would be is complicated by the fact that there are other groups of people who have a legal right to live in Australia, whether permanently or for a set duration of time.

1.37 In Australia, the word 'citizen' can have a specific legal meaning, as defined under the Australian Citizenship Act 2007. This legal status confers a range of rights and responsibilities including the right to apply for public office, the right to apply for an Australian passport and the responsibility to enrol on the Electoral Register and vote (with the exception of prisoners and persons of unsound mind). Australian citizenship can be acquired through birth, descent, adoption or a grant of citizenship.

1.38 However, there are several other groups of people who have a legal right to live in Australia indefinitely, such as permanent residents who have not applied for citizenship and New Zealand citizens living in Australia (who, under the Trans Tasman Agreement, are not required to have a visa to travel to Australia). In addition, many overseas travellers possess visas which allow them to live in Australia for extended periods of time (e.g. those on student or business visas).

1.39 A legal population can apply to any legal status or entitlement conferred by the government. For example, British subjects that have been on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll since 1984 are not citizens of Australia, but are entitled to vote in Australian elections and so are included in a legal population of people entitled to vote. Likewise, people eligible to be covered by Medicare could be considered part of a legal population of people with Medicare entitlements.

Economic population

1.40 The ABS compiles a range of statistics relating to the Australian economy, including the national accounts, balance of payments, financial accounts and government finance statistics. These economic statistics are compiled according to international standards, and comply with the System of National Accounts 1993 (United Nations, 1993) as well as the fifth edition of the Balance of Payments Manual (International Monetary Fund, 1993). The scope of an economic population differs from that of the estimated resident population both in terms of definitions of what constitutes Australian territory, as well as definitions of what persons are included as resident individuals and households.

1.41 Conceptually, Australia's economy comprises economic entities (whether households, non-profit institutions, government units or corporations) that have a closer association with the territory of Australia than with any other territory. Australia's economic territory includes:

  • territories lying within Australia's political frontiers and territorial seas, and in the international waters over which Australia has exclusive jurisdiction
  • territorial enclaves abroad, whether owned or rented by Australian governments with the formal agreement of the countries where they are located (e.g. embassies, consulates, military bases, scientific stations, information or immigration offices and aid agencies). Similar foreign enclaves in Australia are excluded from Australia's economic territory.

1.42 The external territories of Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the Australian Antarctic Territory and Norfolk Island are regarded as part of Australia's economic territory.

1.43 For balance of payments purposes, resident households and individuals include all persons residing in Australia's economic territory for one year or more, whose general centre of interest is considered to be Australia. Official diplomatic and consular representatives, armed forces and other government personnel stationed abroad (and their dependents), as well as Australian students studying abroad for one year or more are also considered to be Australian residents because their centre of economic interest remains Australia.

1.44 In general, persons visiting Australia for less than one year are regarded as non-residents for balance of payments purposes because their centre of economic interest is considered to be overseas. However, overseas students and medical patients are treated as residents of their country of origin, irrespective of the duration of their visit to Australia.

Service population

1.45 A service population comprises both resident and non-resident populations that happen to be in a specified area, and demand and/or use goods or services over a specified time. People in a service population may be permanent or temporary residents of the area from which the service is sought, or they may be daytime visitors (including commuters), overnight or short-term visitors to the area. Service populations could include:
  • commuter populations
  • daytrippers
  • tourists and other overnight visitors
  • temporary residents, such as:
      • seasonal workers (e.g. fruit pickers, other harvest and agricultural workers)
      • cyclical employees (e.g. fly-in/fly-out mine workers, members of parliament, senators and support staff in Canberra when Parliament is sitting)
      • winter-time visitors to sunbelt zones
      • residents of Aboriginal outstations in the dry season.

1.46 A significant issue associated with service population estimation is the diversity of service providers and service products. This means that there is a lack of conformity in user needs, as service population providers seek a diverse range of service population definitions. Specifically, considerable variability exists in the demographic and geographic characteristics of the target populations to which different services are intended. Other issues that complicate the estimation of service populations include definitional difficulties and difficulties in obtaining appropriate data sources.

1.47 The Information Paper: Population Concepts, 2008 (cat. no. 3107.0.55.006) suggests that there are a number of indicators for which a rise and fall in the service population would create a corresponding rise and fall in the indicator. Examples of such indicators are household and personal consumption (such as water, electricity, gas) and measures of waste production (such as sewerage flows). Non availability and lack of uniformity of data are the major limitations to estimating the size of a service population.

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