## Australia’s population – does size matter?

Australia could have vastly different population sizes over the coming decades depending on growth driving forces which include birth rates, life expectancy and immigration policy, a new analysis has found.

The analysis also found that a ‘bigger Australia’ was not a panacea for an ageing population and a dwindling proportion of working citizens.

The report, by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, has painted three potential scenarios for Australia population into the future: a projection for ‘a smaller Australia’; a continuation of ‘current trends’; and, a projection for ‘a bigger Australia’.

**A smaller Australia**

The ‘smaller Australia scenario would see birth rates remain relatively low and net overseas immigration and life expectancy rates remain largely as they are. Australia’s population will rise to just 30 million by 2033 – an increase of just seven million.

One fifthof the population would be over 65, with 3 per cent being 85 and over and 16 per cent of people under 15. With just under two thirdsof the population being of working age (64 per cent), there would be 57 ‘dependents’ for every 100 ‘workers’.

Thirty years later 2063, under this scenario, the population would have increased to 37 million.

The effects of population ageing would bemore evident under this scenario, with the proportion of people aged 65 and over in Australia increasing to 25 per cent, and the proportion of children under 15 decreasing to 15 per cent.

The working-age population would decrease to 60 per cent and there would be 66 ‘dependents’ for every 100 ‘workers’. Five per cent of Australians would be 85 years or over.

**Current trends**

Under this scenario, the population would be 31 million in 2033.

The proportion of people aged 65 years and over would increaseto 19 per cent – up from 14 per cent currently – and the proportion of children (under 15) would decrease slightlyto 18 per cent.

The working age population would decrease to 63 per cent of the population, and there would be 59 ‘dependents’ for every 100 ‘workers’.The proportion of people aged 85 and over would increase to 3 per cent.

In 2063 the population would have reached42 million. The proportion of people aged 65 and overwould be23 per cent while 17 per cent would be aged under 15.

The working age population would decrease to 61 per cent of the population, and the dependency ratio would be 65 per cent, with 65 ‘dependents’ for every 100 ‘workers’.

The proportion of people aged 85 and over would more than double from its 2013 level to 5 per cent.

**A bigger Australia**

Under the bigger Australia scenario, high birth rates, high life expectancy and high net overseas migration over the next few decades would result in a much larger population – with the associated increase in needs for amenities such as housing and infrastructure.

The populations would increase to 33 million – up 10 million – by 2033 and then to 49 million by 2063.

While this scenario has more people of working age, it also has more children and older people so the overall dependency ratio increases.

The proportion of people aged 65 and over would grow to 19 per cent by 2033 and the proportion of people aged less than 15 would remain at 19 per cent. The working-age population would fall to 62 per cent, and the dependency ratio would be 61 per cent. The proportion of people aged 85 and over would increase to 3 per cent.

While this scenario has more people of working age, it also has more children and older people so the overall dependency ratio increases.

In 2063, the proportion of people aged 65 and over would be 23 per cent, although the proportion of those aged less than 15 would have decreased to 18 per cent.

The working-age population would drop to 59 per cent, and there would be 70’dependents’ for every 100 ‘workers’. Under this scenario, 6 per cent of Australians would beaged 85 years and over.

**Status quo**

In December 2013, the Australia’s population was estimated at 23.3 million. Around one fifth of the population was aged less than 15, while 14 per cent of the population was aged over 65 – includingaround2 per cent aged over 85.

The working-age population (aged 15 to 64) was two thirdsof the total population, and there was a total dependency ratio of 50 per cent – meaning there were 50 ‘dependents’ for every 100 ‘workers’.

Fertility rates were 1.9 births per woman, life expectancy was 79.9 years for men and 84.3 years for women, andnet overseas migrationwas averaging 240,000 migrants per year.

In 2013 migration made up 60 per cent of total population growth.

**ABS Assistant Director of Social and Progress Reporting**, **Ms Guinevere Hunt**, said if all the growth drivers were low, our population in 50 years’ time is projected to be 37 million.

She said this was five million less than current medium series projections. A quarter of Australians would be 65 years and over, and the proportion of children under 15 would decrease to 15 per cent. We would also see 66 ‘dependents’ for every 100 ‘workers’. “The scenario with the biggest growth shows our population being 49 million in 50 years’ time,” Ms Hunt said.

“In this scenario, there would be more older people and more children. The working-age population would drop to 59 per cent, and there would be 70 ‘dependents’ for every 100 ‘workers’. 6 per cent of Australians would be aged 85 years and over,” she said.