Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Mark McCrindle researches our next population milestone:

At around 7am on Sunday 26 August 2012 Australia will hit its next population milestone of 23 million, social demographer Mark McCrindle has calculated.

This new milestone comes less than a year after the world hit its latest mark of 7 billion, on 31 October 2011. Interestingly it was in 1966 that the population of both Australia and the world were half their current populations (11.5 million and 3.5 billion respectively).

So not only has Australia’s population doubled with that of the world in less than half a century, but our population growth rate of 1.4% currently exceeds the global growth of 1.1%. Small in percentage terms perhaps, but this is one new Canberra per year, or a new Darwin every 16 weeks!

Australia’s Ageing Population:

McCrindle Research have calculated that in the 46 years since 1966 Australia’s population has not only doubled but it has also been transformed. Back then 40% of Australia’s population was aged under 21 compared to less than 27% today. And highlighting our current ageing, in 1966 just one in 12 Australians were aged over 65 compared to 1 in 7 today. Indeed the number of centenarians has increased 23-fold, from 184 to 4248 in less than half a century.

A Century of Growth:

It is not Australia’s population size but rather the speed of its growth that is most remarkable when compared to other developed nations. In the century since 1912, Germany’s population has increased 25% to 82 million, the UK has increased 37% to 62 million while Australia has increased 490%. In fact in 1912 Australia at 4.7 million had a smaller population than Sweden’s 5.5 million however in the century since, Sweden has increased by 4 million while Australia has increased by more than 18 million! Indeed the population of Sydney today is equivalent to Australia’s entire population a century ago.

40 Million in 40 Years?

It was in mid 2007 that Australia hit 21 million so the population has increased by 2 million in half a decade.

In 2007 the forecast for our mid-century population was 29 million. The latest forecasts have our population breaking 35 million by 2050. However as social analyst Mark McCrindle has calculated, if the average growth rates that Australia has experienced over the last few years continue, then Australia will actually be approaching 40 million in 40 years.

Centre of Population:

Australia’s population growth and spread is not uniform, and a good measure of this is the centre of population. This can be thought of as the heart of Australia- the geographical point that is centre of the entire population, and so it marks the point that is the shortest distance to every person in the population. In other words there are as many people to the west as to the east of that point, and similarly, there are as many north as south of that point. Australia’s centre of population currently lies in the Central Darling area, near Ivanhoe; a small town of 265 people in North Western NSW... but it’s on the move.

From five years ago we have seen the centre of population move 12km north-west, slowly making its way towards Wilcannia. The journey North West is hardly surprising, with the two speed economy also fuelling two-speed demography and a shift to the West and to the North. Western Australia is fastest growing state (growing at 2.7% per year) with Queensland second (at 2.3%).

Despite the population expansion in Western Australia and Queensland, NSW continues to be Australia’s largest state, with Sydney the fastest growing city in Australia in terms of total numbers, accommodating 1 in 5 Australians and almost 2 in 3 NSW Residents. Sydney also has the nation’s highest population density of 380 people per square kilometre which is the same as that of all of the other Australian capital cities combined!

The centre of population for Australia’s largest state, NSW, is currently located near South Maroota in the Hills Shire, north of Sydney and not far from the Hawkesbury River. This location highlights the current population dominance of the North Coast over the South Coast but the NSW centre is shifting South-East as Sydney, and the coastal cities generally continue their growth. Interestingly, Sydney’s centre of population that for a long time was heading West with the urban sprawl has remained unchanged for the last 5 years and sits at Ermington. This shows the balance between the continued growth to Sydney’s North West and South West and the ongoing infill in the inner Western suburbs and Sydney CBD itself.

Australia in the Global Context:

Hitting our next million milestone will again raise the questions about “big Australia”, and what growth rate is sustainable. In the global context, Australia’s population is small- at just 0.3% of the world’s population and is the equivalent of 8 weeks of global births! In fact if Australia was a city it would only rank 7th in the world- amongst the company of Mexico City and Delhi- both at around 23 million.

However, McCrindle Research’s recent studies show that more than half of all Australians (52%) are concerned about our rapid growth rate and only a third (36%) felt that we are growing at the right rate.

“For most Australians, population planning is not about a target number or comparisons of population densities but ensuring that the infrastructure, housing and services can cope with the growth that is occurring now. It is personal experience not policy that drives their views. Growing commute times, crowded public transport, and extended waiting times for public services raise the issue of population size.” stated Mark McCrindle of McCrindle Research.

For further analysis:
For more information or to organise an interview with demographer and social analyst Mark McCrindle, please contact Francesca Dalton on 02 8824 3422 or email [email protected]

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