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Sustainable Society:  A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.







Australian Population Projections
1999 - 2101*


Population projections in this publication span the period from 1999 to 2101 for Australia and 2051 for the States and Territories and capital cities/balance of States. A combination of assumptions of future levels of births, deaths and migration are used to illustrate the possible size, structure and distribution of Australia's population into the next century. Three main series are produced and the assumptions underlying them are summarised below.

PROJECTION SERIES, Assumptions used(a) - Australia

Total fertility rate(b)
Net overseas migration
Series I 1.75 110,000
Series II 1.6 90,000
Series III 1.6 70,000

(a) One mortality assumption is used for all series.
(b) Births per woman.


Australia's population is projected to grow from 19 million in 1999 to between 24.1 and 28.2 million in 2051, and to between 22.6 and 31.9 million in 2101.

Natural increase, the excess of births over deaths, is projected to become negative between 2033 and 2046.


TOTAL POPULATION: Observed and projected - Australia


Throughout the 1990s, Australia's annual population growth rate has consistently exceeded 1%. While growth rates of this magnitude are projected to continue for about the next 10 years, these will decline throughout the remainder of the projection period to between 0.4 and -0.6% by 2051.


According to the United Nations' population projections, some of Australia's major trading partners also show low positive to negative population growth rates between 1995 and 2050. The population of Japan is projected to decline by an average of 0.3% each year to a level below their current population while the United States of America is projected to grow by an average of 0.5% each year. In comparison, under Series II, Australia's average annual growth rate for the period 1999 to 2051 is 0.6% per year.


The projections show that the ageing of Australia's population will continue. This is the inevitable result of fertility remaining at low levels over a long period associated with increasing life expectancy. As growth slows, the population ages progressively with the median age of 35 years in 1999 increasing to 40 - 42 years in 2021 and 44 - 7 years in 2051.


By 2051, the population aged 65 years and over is projected to be at least double its present size, increasing from 12% of the population in 1999 to 24 - 27% in 2051. In Series II, the highest annual rate of growth for this age group will occur in 2012 when the large cohort born in 1947, part of the post World War II 'baby boom', turns 65.

The 85 years and over age group numbered 241,100 (1.3% of the total population) in 1999. This group is projected to reach approximately 1.3 million in 2051, and between 1.3 million and 1.6 million in 2101.

In 1999, the 85 years and over age group was dominated by women, who made up 69% of the group. In all series this proportion is projected to fall to 63% in 2021, 59% in 2051 and 57% in 2101, reflecting the increase in life expectancy of men and the narrowing gap in life expectancy between men and women.

The population aged 15 - 64 years, which encompasses much of the working-age population, made up 67% of Australia's population in 1999. This proportion increases slightly over the first ten years of the projection under all the main series to reach 68% in 2008. It then declines to 65% in 2021, 59 - 60% in 2051 and 58 - 59% in 2101.


The two factors which have the greatest impact on future national population size and growth are fertility and overseas migration.

A change in the total fertility rate of just 0.1 births per woman higher or lower over the whole of the period would result in the population in 2051 being approximately 1.0 million larger or smaller, and in 2101 being approximately 2.3 million larger or smaller.

If there were no net overseas migration from 1999 and a total fertility rate of 1.6 babies per woman prevailed, the population would reach a peak of 20.9 million in 2028 before declining to 19.2 million in 2051 and 13.0 million in 2101.

Increasing the level of net overseas migration by 1,000 per year over the projection period, from 90,000 to 91,000 per year, with a total fertility rate of 1.6 babies per woman, would add 67,500 to Australia's population in 2051 and 131,900 in 2101.

Even large differences in the level of net overseas migration will have a relatively small impact on the age distribution. With net overseas migration of 50,000 per year, the median age of the population in 2051 would be 47.2 years, compared to 44.6 years when 150,000 net overseas migrants are added to the population per year, a difference of 2.6 years.


In Series II, the highest growth between 1999 and 2051 is projected to occur in the Northern Territory (92%), Queensland (74%) and Western Australia (63%), well above the growth projected for Australia (34%).

POPULATION: Actual and projected (a)

NSW Vic. Qld SA WA Tas. NT ACT(b) Aust.
'000 '000 '000 '000 '000 '000 '000 '000 '000


Actual 4,041.4 3,417.2 1,601.4 1,092.9 1,364.2 194.2 88.1 309.9 12,109.2
Series I 6,215.8 4,492.6 3,311.0 1,031.1 2,565.4 186.7 242.8 489.3 18,534.7
Series II 5,857.8 4,393.2 2,864.1 1,102.2 2,231.5 146.2 192.2 371.7 17,158.9
Series III 5,704.7 4,638.8 2,510.9 1,228.6 1,981.8 99.7 121.2 248.3 16,534.0


Actual 6,411.7 4,712.2 3,512.4 1,493.1 1,861.0 470.3 192.9 310.2 18,966.8
Series I 9,001.6 5,628.1 7,229.0 1,423.1 3,477.7 435.7 506.6 489.3 28,194.7
Series II 8,247.8 5,547.3 6,101.3 1,410.5 3,037.8 319.3 369.5 371.7 25,408.5
Series III 7,910.7 5,877.1 5,373.7 1,477.1 2,674.5 231.3 263.0 248.3 24,059.0

(a) The three main series may not represent the highest or lowest population sizes possible under the assumptions. Further details are given in the tables in Chapter 4 of the publication.
(b) Projections for Canberra are the same as for the ACT as a whole.

Queensland is projected to replace Victoria as the second most populous State between 2026 and 2038, while the population of the Australian Capital Territory could overtake that of Tasmania between 2041 and 2047. The Northern Territory could overtake the populations of both Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory by between 2044 and 2048.

The population of Tasmania is projected to decline in all three series, from 470,300 in 1999 to between 231,300 and 435,700 in 2051, a decline of between 7 and 51%. It is the only State where two of the three series project population declines throughout the entire projection period.

Capital city/balance of State and Territory projections

In Series II, the capital cities would experience larger percentage growth than their respective balances, resulting in the further concentration of Australia's population within the capital cities. In this series, Sydney and Melbourne remain the two most populous cities in Australia at 5.9 million and 4.4 million, respectively in 2051, followed by Brisbane (2.9 million).

The population of Darwin overtakes the population of Hobart between 2038 and 2045 in all three series.

The population of Hobart is projected to decline under each projection series. Under Series II, Hobart's population could fall by 25% over the projection period.
"Population Projections", AusStats,# 3222.0
Australian Bureau of Statistics, August 17, 2000, Rev. June 7, 2002
See original at < http://www.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/ABS%40.nsf/e8ae5488b598839cca25682000131612/0cd69ef8568dec8eca2568a900139392!OpenDocument >.