How, why and where we’re growing: the facts

The facts around our new benchmark – 25 million Australians.

sleeping baby

The population of Australia hit 25 million about 11pm on Tuesday – 33 years ahead of predictions.

The population clock on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website was counting down – or rather up. It used the estimated population at 31 December last year as the basis and assumed growth since then of:

  • one birth every 1 minute and 42 seconds
  • one death every 3 minutes and 16 seconds
  • one person arriving to live in Australia every 1 minute and 1 second
  • one Australian resident leaving to live overseas every 1 minute and 51 seconds, leading to
  • an overall total population increase of one person every 1 minute and 23 seconds.

Australia is expected to hit 36 million by 2050 and, according to the latest ABS population projection data, 70.1 million people by 2101.

In case you were wondering, we are 54th in the world, according to, with the top five being China (1,415,045,928), India (1,354,051,854), the US (326,766,748), Indonesia and Brazil. Our population accounts for 0.33 per cent of the global total.

We have a more older population than ever before. In 1901, the median age was 22.5 years. That rose to 27.5 by 1970 and to 37.3 last year.

Most Australians (67 per cent) live, as we know, in capital cities.

The ABS says the majority are in New South Wales (65 per cent in Sydney), Victoria (77 per cent in Melbourne), South Australia (77 per cent in Adelaide), Western Australia (79 per cent in Perth) and the Northern Territory (60 per cent in Darwin).

The trend is different only in Tasmania (44 per cent in Hobart) and Queensland (49 per cent in Brisbane).

A United Nations report puts the global population increase in 2017 at 1.1 per cent, compared with Australia’s 1.6 per cent increase. Australian allies such as Canada (1.2 per cent growth), the US (0.7), the UK (0.6), South Korea (0.4) and Japan (–0.2) all experienced lower population growth last year, according to the World Bank data.

Victoria (2.3 per cent), the ACT (2.2) and Queensland (1.7) experienced the biggest growth rates during 2017.

The 2016 Census of Population and Housing showed that about 3.6 million of the then 24.3 million Australians were aged 65 or older.

Those aged 65 and older accounted for 11.3 per cent of the population in 1991, 13.7 per cent in 2011 and 15 per cent in 2016.

By 2056, government forecasts estimate there will be 8.7 million Australians aged 65 or older (22 per cent of the population) and by 2096, there will be 12.8 million (25 per cent).

Of the 3.6 million older Australians, those aged 65 to 74 consistently accounted for the majority of older people (56 per cent). However, the census found increasing numbers in the 75–84 years group (30 per cent) and 85 and over (13 per cent). In 2016, 486,800 people were aged 85 and over.

With longevity comes higher healthcare costs. A Monash University–CSIRO report in 2016 estimates that as a result of an ageing population, health expenditure per person will rise from $7439 in 2015 to $9594 in 2035 – an increase in total expenditure from $166 billion to $320 billion or an average annual growth of 3.33 per cent.

So is our population growth a good or bad thing? Depends on who you ask.

Sustainable Australia founder William Bourke warned that if our growth rate continues, houses with backyards and cars will become increasingly impossible to own and the healthcare system may implode with “massive queues” for hospital beds. He wants migration rates lowered.

Australian National University demographer Dr Liz Allen presents a different view. She argues that our current growth and migration intake is perfect for economic growth.

“Evidence shows that the optimal level for Australia, given the population characteristics is between 160,000 and 210,000,” she told

“If we were to look at the net effects of the contribution to the economy, Australia benefits and gains more from migrants than migrants draw from Australia.”

“If we were to cut out immigration tonight and shut the door to Australia, we would still have a growing population,” she said. “We’d still have a need for more schools and hospitals in Sydney. The idea that we can stay put in some kind of historical holding point harks back to the 1950s.”

Does our population growth worry you? Can we grow in a sustainable fashion?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    8th Aug 2018
    The count would be lower if a tighter grip on immigration was undertaken. If the drought continues we will not be able to sustain a larger population for much longer. Most common food items will be priced above what people can afford.
    8th Aug 2018
    I remember a time when all renters never paid for parks were for free in most places...the cost of living has gone up so much with population increase....the government complains all the time about increased expenses due to population birth control and sex education should become global. It would eradicate poverty and a lot of other associated problems.

    I wish Dick Smith sat for parliament. Lib/Lab land have not policies with regard to immigration...both parties let it go on because it is supposed to be good for the economy which is a load of crap.
    8th Aug 2018
    The drought is a dreadful problem for our farmers in one particular area at the moment. The truth of the matter is that by far the majority of farmers in this country are doing very well indeed. A sure reason for this country to be able to maintain good relations with neighbouring countries who offer a huge market. We sell about 65% of our food production.....

    With regard to migrants - where did you or your parents come from?
    Have you noticed how many of this country's most amazing developments, partiticularly in medicine, involve migrants.

    Have you noticed how many specialists are from other countries.

    Most migrants are people who want to work believe it or not. I think it is important that we educate ourselves about what is actually happening here and let go of racist feelings.

    As older people live longer if they are pensioners especially the country is going desperately to need a younger population paying taxes to support them.
    8th Aug 2018
    Maggie, it is not racist to be realistic and acknowledge that there is a limit to the number of people this country can feed and supply with water.
    Also, according to the economics of the day the financial support is going to stay the same due to the fact that everyone has to pay for their super.
    At the risk of being called racist myself a big percentage of the migrant input seems to have changed from worker to shirker and they and their kids won't be paying for pensioners.
    9th Aug 2018
    Populate or perish!
    9th Aug 2018
    I would not call persons who want immigration slowed or halted racist (unless of course they advocated a return to the White Australia Policy), I suggest xenophobic would be a more appropriate description. While world population s a pressing issue I do not believe Australia is in any peril of becoming over-populated, at least not in the next century or so. Lack of water is cited by some persons as reason to halt immigration, There is abundant water in Australia, only problem it is not located in places it is needed now.
    9th Aug 2018
    I wouldn't call it 'xenophobic', either, Eddy... more like expressing concern and offering a view which is actually quite neutral, since it is a request to halt and see what is going on before plunging ahead....

    Too much tossing around of big-sounding words to shut people up these days... can't call a spade a spade without be labeled racist ..... and don't you dare use 'he' or 'she', you big alphabetophobic sh1t or I'll get the teacher to fail you!
    13th Aug 2018
    Study the figures on Muslim population growth and see if you still want to call those who object to immigration by certain types ''xenophobic''. Australia is set to become a Muslim nation. Perhaps some consider that a good thing? It worries me - not because I have anything against Muslims. I have some Muslim friends who are wonderful people. I just don't want to see Sharia rule in my country.
    8th Aug 2018
    It's about time we phased out the baby bonus and cut immigration. Yes, population growth does equal economic growth but what is actually growing? When you break it down it's housing, government services and health care, all non-productive sectors of the economy. This means an ever increasing tax burden on the population as well as a lower quality of life. I believe in a target of zero population growth where we can maintain our quality of life.
    8th Aug 2018
    A disaster of the utmost magnitude.
    Australia, and this planet, may not be overcrowded but it is grossly OVERPOPULATED.
    The human plague continues.
    When will it ever end?
    8th Aug 2018
    Government line:- Too many - bump off the elderly.

    Reality Line:- Too many now concentrated into CBDs and creating massive pressure on infrastructure, creating vertical housing push, and bringing with it problems of self-imposed ghettoes and the associated ills - then we have unemployment and under-employment and a steadily declining standard of living for many, and a gradual reduction in real average incomes across the board, leading to massive social ruptions ... sort of the Grand Canyons between privilege and poverty.
    8th Aug 2018
    Even considering 50m or 70m is insanity of the finest quality.... this nation's livable area is limited by desert etc, and without massive infusion of new and forward-thinking ideas (such as the GAIA schemes I've mooted), all that will happen is massive over-crowding into clearly defined areas currently bouded by the major city centres... might as well set up large concentration camps now and fence them off...... work out which areas have the most crime rates and wall them off and leave them to themselves, allowing only a few through the gates to trade with the civilised world outside....
    8th Aug 2018
    Note the use of the term 'ructions' - not 'divides'....... the actual impact is far greater than the relatively benevolent term 'divide'.... there's a divide between Canterbury and St George supporters.. let alone with South Sydney supporters.... hardly in the same league (sic) as the developing and all-encompassing social/economic disaster unfolding.....

    When the ructions become deep enough, the Hunger Wars (not Games) will begin for true....
    8th Aug 2018
    And just dare them to mention water rationing now after importing millions. Nup and no. When the water is gone it's gone and damn their stupidity.
    8th Aug 2018
    Agree Trebor
    Anyone living in a capital city who owns a home and is on OAP, should be forced to move to the country or have their pension cut

    This will help distribute the population, free up housing and make housing in capital cities more affordable
    8th Aug 2018
    Your send-up of that nonsensical government thought bubble is highly commended, olbie....

    The Guv needs to toss pensioners out of the city homes so their local confreres can put up high rise and flood the neighbourhood with people .... reap the rates and then find that the infrastructure is so degraded by excess traffic etc that the only solution will be to close off entire precincts... we can have Pink Precincts, Black Precincts, Yellow Precincts, Sallow Precincts... every colour of the rainbow and the Rainbow...
    8th Aug 2018
    OR... (lets that hang in the air for a moment).........................

    ......the government could mass clear all the forestation along the Eastern Seaboard and use it all up in housing, such is occurring in the gold coast hinterland...

    In the couple of years between visits up there to see grandies etc, the place has gone ahead by leaps and bounders (sic) ... and whole areas of bush are gonski.... soon it will be a carpet of houses from the kid's place on Mt Tamborine all the way to the coast..... and when the building stops.... so does the employment for many ........

    Think of the billions of people we could import from the horror nations and transplant along the Great Dividing Range if we pulled down all the trees etc....

    Oh - the point is that as well as being bounded in by desert and dry land and marginal farming land for grazing etc ...... the Eastern Seaboard is also bounded by massive state forests which are untouchable..... sacred sites for those intent on stopping deforestation worldwide....
    8th Aug 2018
    A major part of the answer is to seriously increase the requirements a person has to meet to be accepted into Australia.
    8th Aug 2018
    BrianP....The requirements are buy property and small business. It doesn't matter how or where you got if from.

    Poor arrivals are not welcome unless they wish to be exploited for slave labour.

    Wealthy new arrivals buy and spend money temporarily. In the end they will need government and medical support too.

    Another reason this government wants Australians to work till they are 70 and live off their super instead of pensions.
    Old Man
    8th Aug 2018
    Australia has to scale back on immigration from all countries. We are currently accepting around 250,000 nett each year and our infrastructure has been unable to keep pace. There is a shortage of housing, house prices are rising and our roads in the cities are becoming clogged with peak hour traffic. Incidentally, peak hour is becoming longer in time each and every year.

    Australia punches well above its weight with the refugee intake and leads the world on a per capita basis when compared with the resident population. A number of refugees are unable to find employment because of language barriers which then requires welfare payments from the government. If there was a cutting back to even halve the intake of immigrants, it would give some breathing space to catch up with the infrastructure.
    8th Aug 2018
    Old Man...I agree. You forgot out lack of water.

    Cut back immigration until the dessert is transformed into cities like Las Vegas and Dubai, instead of having the entire population cling to the coastlines.
    Old Man
    8th Aug 2018
    Thanks jackie, or maybe shut the Greenies up and build a few storage dams.
    8th Aug 2018
    Depends on the dams - The Trebor Schemes of GAIA include one to open Lake Eyre to the sea and create an inner climate... all that heat and evaporation would surely bring rain down... of course there might be a tiny colony of frog-footed amelopedes living in Lake Eyre Basin who would be extinct if we flooded it...
    8th Aug 2018
    All terrorists and paedophiles may redeem themselves by working on the tunnels... especially the last few feet to the ocean flood....

    *dusts off hands - job complete and several birds with one stone*
    Swinging voter
    8th Aug 2018
    It's not as if Australians haven't been telling their politicians to cut back immigration but the Canberra dunderheads just continue on their merry way, facilitating the rapidly increasing and unsustainable population all the while downgrading the quality of life for Australians in every age group.
    They should stop sending aid - send shiploads of useful stuff e.g. condoms and doctors to sterilise the hordes who keep on breeding unaffordable third world families. So it follows that Australian couples are choosing, out of common sense and necessity, to have one child.
    8th Aug 2018
    Swinging voter...I agree, the real problem is an overpopulated planet that is causing destruction.
    8th Aug 2018
    There's more to life than ''economic growth'', whatever that means. Take a look at Bangkok or Hong Kong to see what population growth looks like when it's uncontrolled. Frankly I'd prefer less ''economic growth" if it means a more aesthetic lifestyle.
    8th Aug 2018
    1:37pm do I. Life was fantastic in Australia before the 1980s.
    8th Aug 2018
    Spot on Inextratime....Australia has lost the plot. When did “economic growth” and profit become the priority? A peaceful quality lifestyle seems far preferable. Or am I just lost in some Baby Boomer fantasy?
    13th Aug 2018
    Spot on. It's become all about wealth, but it should be all about quality of life. Our pollies are now so obsessed with economic growth that they are happy to promote the view that us retirees are to blame for all evils and should be penalized with reduced incomes and lifestyles and poorer health care. Oh, that's right, it's not a 'punishment'. It's just that the nation can't afford us! BS!
    8th Aug 2018
    What worries me is the lack of starting on the building of all the new schools and hospitals we need now. You can't just up and build these things quickly. It takes planning and financing and political will which appears sadly lacking.
    8th Aug 2018
    Here's another argument on the same issue - some parallel thoughts in it:-
    8th Aug 2018
    The developers love immigration aided and abetted by corrupt politicians.You can't grow a crop on cement.Our best cropping land is now covered in houses.With climate change the last thing you need is over population.Wake up Australia and think about your kids.
    9th Aug 2018
    floss...they will expect us to eat produce from China and everywhere else.
    Yeah, right!
    9th Aug 2018
    What's more important is the rate of population increase. From 23m to 25m in 2 years; that's an 8.7% increase in 24 months, with 38% being children being born here.

    This rate is being driven by misguided politician's listening to those who fill their coffers for election campaigns. These backers, the development sector, pour in 10's of millions of dollars to political parties. 26% of this cadre of sycophant delivered overseas moneys into the development sector.

    The only good building investment I've seen in the last 12 months was an investment by Host Plus Super (a not for profit industry fund) investing in a commercial building construction using workers' super funds. That's the type of investment we want, money from OUR work being invested in OUR communities/industries for OUR long term support.

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