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Feature Article - Population Projections 1997 - 2051
TOTAL POPULATION: Actual and projected - Australia
International comparison United Nations’ medium variant projections show that the rapidly growing populations of South-East Asia present prospects of a widening gap in terms of population size between those countries and Australia. This will occur even though it is projected that these countries will
experience declining (though still positive) population growth rates in the future. Indonesia’s population, already 10 times that of Australia, could increase to nearly 319 million in the year 2050, over 12 times Australia’s projected population. Malaysia’s population, which is currently similar to Australia’s, could almost double to 38 million in the year 2050, exceeding the population of Australia by over 13 million or 53%. During the same period Australia’s nearest neighbour, Papua New Guinea, is projected to experience growth rates of over 2% per year, resulting in a more than doubling of its population to 9.6 million.
States and Territories Table 1 shows actual and projected population levels for each State and Territory and its capital city. The highest rates of growth between 1997 and 2051 are projected to occur in the Northern Territory (between 84% and 154%), Queensland (between 76% and 90%) and Western Australia
(between 67% and 74%).
Queensland is projected to replace Victoria as the second most populous State between 2022 and 2048, while the population of the Australian Capital Territory would overtake that of Tasmania between 2037 and 2043. The Northern Territory would overtake the populations of both Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory between 2039 and 2086.
Tasmania is the only State or Territory where the population is expected to decline under each of the projection series. The population of Tasmania is projected to decline by between 20% and 58%, from 474,000 in 1997 to between 198,000 and 381,000 in 2051.
POPULATION: Actual and projected
Capital cities The populations of most capital cities are projected to increase over the projection period, with the largest proportionate increases in Darwin
(between 53% and 179%), Brisbane (between 80% and 90%) and Perth (between 70% and 78%).
Under projection series II and III, the population of Darwin would overtake the population of Hobart between 2025 and 2030.
The population of Hobart is projected to decline under each projection series. Under Series II, Hobart’s population could drop by 36% over the projection period.
IMPACT OF VARYING ASSUMPTIONS
The projections series shown in this article do not take into account all possible levels in the components of population growth (fertility, mortality, overseas migration and internal migration). The two factors which have the greatest impact on national population growth are fertility and overseas migration.
Each shift in the total fertility rate of 0.1 births per woman changes the projected 2051 population by about 1 million persons.
If there were no net overseas migration gain from 1997, the population would decline to between 18.3 million and 19.5 million in 2051, after reaching a peak of between 20.1 million and 20.6 million in the period 2025-29.
Each additional 1,000 net overseas migrants per year to 2051 would add 77,000 to the total Australian population by 2051, given a total fertility rate of 1.75 births per woman. This level varies according to the fertility and mortality of these migrants and their descendants.
Changes in net overseas migration have little effect on the age structure of the Australian population. With net overseas migration of 70,000 per year by 1999, the median age in 2051 would be 44-46 years. With no net overseas migration, the median age in 2051 would be 47-49 years.
New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania are projected to experience declines in their shares of the Australian population, while Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are expected to gain in their percentage shares for all Series.
In 1997, about 64% of the Australian population lived in capital cities. This concentration is expected to continue throughout the projection period. By 2051, it is projected that between 20% and 24% of the Australian population would live in Sydney (compared to 21% in 1997), and between 16% and 17% would live in Melbourne (compared to 18% in 1997). Between 11% and 13% of the population would live in Brisbane while between 9% and 10% would live in Perth in 2051,
increasing from their 1997 values of 8% and 7% respectively.
The proportions of the population living in Adelaide and Hobart are projected to decline under each Series. Adelaide is projected to drop from 6% in 1997 to about 4% by 2051, while Hobart is projected to drop from 1% in 1997 to between 0.4% and 0.6% over the same period.
Under Series II and III, Darwin is projected to more than double its share of the Australian population, increasing from 0.5% in 1997 to between 0.9% and 1.0% by 2051. Little change in the proportion of the population living in the Australian Capital Territory is expected under Series I and II. However, under Series III, this proportion is projected to drop from a little under 2% to 1% by 2051.
POPULATION DISTRIBUTION: Actual and projected
While the projections show Australia’s population rising throughout the period 1997-2051, there is a clear long-term trend of decline in the rate of population growth. Between 1997 and 2001, Australia’s average annual growth rate is projected to be between 1.0% and 1.1%. This growth rate is projected to fall to between 0.0% and 0.3% annually by the end of the projection period. Rates this low have not been experienced in Australia since European settlement.
Population projections of some of Australia’s major trading partners also show very low and even negative growth rates. The populations of both Japan and Germany are projected to decline to levels below their current populations, with their growth rates from 1995 projected to fall by an average -0.4% and -0.8%, respectively, by the year 2050.
PROJECTED POPULATION - Australia
PROJECTED POPULATION, Series ll - Australia
The projections show that the ageing of the population, which is already evident, is set to continue. This is the inevitable result of fertility remaining at low levels over a long period while mortality rates decline. As Australia’s population growth slows, the population ages progressively, with the 1997 median age of 34.3 years increasing to between 40.1 and 41.1 years in 2021 and between 43.7 and 46.2 years in 2051.
AGE STRUCTURE - Australia
The population aged 65 years and over rises rapidly throughout the projection period both in terms of numbers and as a proportion of the total population. This age group rises from 2.2 million in 1997 to about 4.0 million in 2021 and between 6.0 million and 6.3 million in 2051. As a proportion of the population, this represents increases from 12% in 1997 to about 18% in 2021 and between 24% and 26% in 2051.
The ageing of the population is also influenced by the declining proportion of the population in the age range 0-14 years, thereby gradually raising the median age. The population aged 0-14 years in 1997 was 3.9 million and is projected to be between 3.5 million and 4.0 million in 2021 and between 3.3 million and 4.2 million in 2051.
The projections also show substantial increases in the number of people aged 85 years or more, rising from 216,000 in 1997 to around 440,000 in 2021, and reaching between 1.1 and 1.2 million in 2051. People aged 85 years and over as a proportion of the population is projected to rise from 1.2% in 1997 to between 4.4% and 4.8% in 2051.
The age structure of the population aged 15-64 years is projected to change considerably by the end of the projection period, with the greatest growth occurring in the population aged 45-64 years. This age group rises from 4.0 million in 1997 to between 6.1 million and 6.5 million in 2051.
International comparison United Nations’ projections show that ageing trends similar to Australia’s are projected for many countries throughout the world. Japan, Greece, New Zealand and Canada, like Australia, are projected to roughly double the proportion of their populations aged 65 years and over by the year 2050. Over the same period, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea are projected to triple the proportion of their populations in this age group. This means that by 2050 many countries, including Australia, are projected to have over 20% of their population aged 65 years or more, with Greece, Hong Kong, Italy and Japan having over 30% of their population in this age group.
DECLINING PROPORTION OF YOUNG PEOPLE
Changes in the number of persons aged 5-14 years, which closely aligns to the compulsory ages for schooling, will impact upon the provision of primary and secondary education. In 1997, this age group represented 14% of the population (2.6 million). By 2051, this is projected to drop to between 10% and 11% of the population (between 2.2 million and 2.8 million).
The number of persons aged 15-24 years, who are the main participants in post-compulsory education, and who will enter the workforce for the first time after completing this phase of their education, is projected to drop from 14% of the population in 1997 (2.7 million) to around 11% in 2051 (between 2.5 million and
PROJECTED BIRTHS AND DEATHS
In 1996-97, there were 253,400 births and 127,600 deaths, resulting in a natural increase of the population of 125,800 persons. While the number of deaths is projected to more than double over the projection period, due to the ageing of the population, the number of births is projected to increase by less than 9% and may even decline (Series III) by 15% by 2051. Regardless of which combination of assumptions is chosen, the natural increase of the population declines quite rapidly, with the number of deaths exceeding the number of births between 2032 and 2041.
PROJECTED BIRTHS AND DEATHS, Series II - Australia
Under Series II, the projected number of births rises to 255,800 in 2051 after dipping slightly in the initial years. Deaths, on the other hand more than doubles, increasing by 124% to 285,200 in 2051. This results in a decline in natural increase from 122,400 in 1998 to -29,400 in 2051, an unprecedented low level.
Under Series I, births rise to 264,200 in 2021 and 273,300 in 2051. Natural increase is higher than the other series, but still declining, reaching -19,500 by 2051.
Under Series III, births fall to 233,000 in 2021 and 215,500 in 2051. As with the other Series, the number of deaths increases steadily throughout the projection period, rising to 284,800 in 2051. This again results in negative natural increase, reaching -69,300 by 2051.
If high fertility levels are assumed and there are no net gains from overseas migration, the natural increase of the population would also fall, with the number of deaths exceeding the number of births from 2030 onwards.
PROJECTED NATURAL INCREASE - Australia
For further information about ABS population projections contact the Director of Demography.
Appendix 1: Assumptions
The following is a summary of the assumptions used for each component of population growth to compile the projection series for 1997-2051. The base population used for the projections is the latest published estimate of 18.5 million as at 30 June 1997.
PRINCIPLES OF ASSUMPTIONS
The future is characterised by uncertainty, which is why the Australian Bureau of Statistics produces a range of assumptions for fertility, overseas migration and internal migration. These assumptions are not intended to show the full range of possible futures, but rather illustrate some possible futures within that range.
SUMMARY OF ASSUMPTIONS
Fertility I The total fertility rate falls to 1.75 births per woman by 2005-06, and then remains constant (high assumption).
Fertility 2 The total fertility rate declines to 1.6 births per woman in 2005-06, and then remains constant (low assumption).
Mortality 1994-96 mortality rates decline to the year 2005-06 according to short-term rates of decline and then long-term rates of decline to
2050-51. By 2051, life expectancy of males will be 82.0 years and of females 86.1 years.
Overseas migration 1 Annual net overseas migration gain of 90,000 from 1998-99 (high assumption).
Overseas migration 2 Annual net overseas migration gain of 70,000 from 1998-99 (low assumption).
Overseas migration 3 Zero net migration gain throughout the projection period to enable an assessment of the effect of overseas migration on population growth and distribution.
Internal migration 1 ‘Large’ net gains and losses for States and Territories.
Internal migration 2 ‘Medium’ net gains and losses for States and Territories.
Internal migration 3 ‘Small’ net gains and losses for States and Territories.
These assumptions can be grouped together in 18 different ways. The uncertainty inherent in the future, and even the subjective nature of assessing current trends, means that using a range of possible outcomes rather than a single projection series gives a better impression of Australia’s direction.
Summary information for all 18 possible combinations and detailed information for three series (I, II, III) are available in chapter 4 of Population Projections
1997 to 2051.
PROJECTIONS SERIES, Assumptions Used (a) - Australia
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