Joanne Simon-Davies, Statistics and Mapping
The Briefing book aims to provide a suite of briefs
on topics that may be salient to the incoming parliament. As an introduction to
these briefs, this article provides a big-picture overview of the economic and
social context through a series of data-driven snapshots. These selected
statistics reflect both structural trends– such as population ageing, longer
term immigration trends, and the skills and capacity of the labour force, as
well as some of the recent disruptions to these longer-term trends triggered by
the COVID-19 pandemic.
Key economic and demographic
|Wage Price Index (total) (annual change)
|Consumer Price Index (annual change)
|Gross domestic product (chain volume)
|Current account balance (at current prices)
|Terms of trade—Index
|Labour force indicators
|Persons 15 years and over
|Underemployment rate (b)
|Long-term unemployment share (c)
|Labour force participation: males
|Labour force participation: females
|Persons 15 to 24 years
|Youth unemployment rate
|Youth underemployment rate
|Annual population growth rate (original)
|Components of annual population change
|Natural Increase (original)
|Net Overseas Migration (original)
|Total growth (original)
data is seasonally adjusted data unless stated otherwise.
rate is the share of employed people in the labour force that want, and are available
for, more hours of work.
ratio is the long-term unemployed (unemployed for 52 weeks or more) as a share
of total unemployed population.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), National, State and Territory Population,
September 2021 (Canberra: ABS, 2022); ABS, Labour Force, March 2022 (2022); ABS, Wage Price Index, March 2022 (2022); ABS, Consumer Price Index, March 2022 (2022); ABS, Australian National Accounts: National
Income, Expenditure and Product, March 2022 (2022); ABS, Balance of Payments and International
Investment Position, March 2022 (2022)
Estimated resident population,
ABS, Historical Population, 2016 (Canberra: ABS, 2019); ABS National, State and Territory Population, September
2021 (Canberra: ABS,
The figure above shows the difference in the age distribution
of the Australian population in 1981 and 2021. The 2021 structure reflects population
ageing and the changing ‘old age dependency ratio’. The latest Intergenerational report (p. 31) notes:
In 1981–82, for every person aged over 65, there were 6.6 working-age
people. In 2019–20, for every person aged over 65, there were 4.0 working-age
people. … The rapid decline in the old-age dependency ratio [from 2010-11onwards] … is largely due to the baby
boomer generation reaching age 65.
The increase in the male proportion of the
population over 65 in 2021 compared to 1981 also reflects improvements in men’s
life expectancy at age 50. A 50-year-old man could expect to live another 25 years in 1980–82 compared
with another 33 years in 2018–20.
The latest Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander population estimates are as at June 2016 when the median age of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait
was 23.0 years, compared to 37.8 years for the non-Indigenous
Australian population. The Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander population has a
younger age structure than the non-Indigenous
population, reflecting higher fertility rates as well as higher mortality rates
than the non-Indigenous population.
In 2020–21, Australia’s annual
population growth fell sharply from an annual increase of 1.3% to an increase
of just 0.2% as international border restrictions were implemented to contain the COVID‐19 pandemic. This was the slowest growth in
over a century. The 2022–23 Budget (p. 1) suggests:
As travel returns to pre‐pandemic conditions,
population growth is projected to increase to
1.4 per cent by 2024–25 and then gradually decline to 1.2 per cent by the end
of the medium-term in 2032–33. These growth rates are similar to those expected
prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, losses in migration during the
pandemic will lead to our population being smaller and older than forecast
before the pandemic.
Life expectancy at birth,
ABS, Historical Population, 2016 (Canberra: ABS, 2019); ABS Life Tables, 2018–2020 (2022)
Australia has one of the
highest life expectancies of any nation, ranked sixth highest
for both men and women. Only Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Spain, and Italy
have higher life expectancies than Australia. Australian men and women have
higher life expectancy than similar countries, such as New Zealand, the UK,
and the US.
In recent years, life
expectancy (at birth) for males has improved at a faster rate than for females.
Over the past 10 years, life expectancy for males increased by 1.7 years and for
females by 1.3 years. Around 30 years ago, life expectancy at birth in
73.9 years for males and 80.1 years for females, a gap of 6.2 years. This gap
narrowed to 4.1 years in 2018–20.
Life expectancy is much
lower among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples than the non-Indigenous
population. Nationally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males born in
2015–2017 are expected to live to 71.6 years and females to 75.6 years, and
non-Indigenous males and females to 80.2 years and 83.4 years, respectively. The
Close the Gap in life expectancy within a generation,
by 2031 target is not on track to be
When comparing the states
and territories there is considerable variation. The ACT has the highest life expectancy (males at 82.1 years and
females at 85.9 years), and the Northern Territory has the lowest (males at 76.2
years) and females at 81.0 years).
Fertility rate, Australia
ABS, Historical Population, 2016 (Canberra: ABS, 2019); ABS, Births, 2020 (2021)
In the last few decades,
Australia, similar to other OECD countries, has undergone a demographic transition from high
fertility to low fertility (3.64 children per woman in 1912 compared to fewer
than 1.95 in 1981 and 1.58 children in 2020). The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) dropped during the 1930s Depression but rose strongly during the post-World
War Two baby-boom., Since the 1970s the rate has mostly sat at fewer than two
children per woman. The record low fertility rate of 1.58 in 2020 can be attributed
to fewer births and birth registrations in most jurisdictions in a year marked
by COVID-19 disruptions.
On Australia’s future population (p. 4):
2022–23 Budget assumes COVID-19 will not have an adverse impact on Australia’s
total fertility rate. The fertility rate is assumed to be 1.66 babies per woman
in 2021–22 and then fall to 1.62 babies per woman by 2030–31 and remain there thereafter,
reflecting a long running trend of families having fewer children and doing so
later in life. Despite the declining fertility rate, births are forecast to
increase from 298,000 in 2020–21 to 310,000 in 2025–26, and to 326,000 by 2032–33,
as the number of women of childbearing age continues to increase.
Leading causes of death
|Ischaemic heart diseases
|Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease
|Malignant neoplasm (cancer) of trachea, bronchus and
|Chronic lower respiratory diseases
|Malignant neoplasm of colon, sigmoid, rectum and
|Malignant neoplasms of lymphoid, haematopoietic and
|Diseases of the urinary system
|Malignant neoplasm of prostate
|Heart failure and complications and ill-defined
|Malignant neoplasm of pancreas
|Malignant neoplasms of breast
|Intentional self-harm [suicide]
(a) Causes of death data for 2020 are preliminary and subject to
ABS, Causes of Death, 2020 (Canberra: ABS, 2021)
In 2020, the 5 leading
causes of death were Ischaemic heart disease, Dementia including Alzheimer's
disease, Cerebrovascular diseases (such as stroke), Lung cancer, and Chronic
lower respiratory diseases. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,
the top 5 causes were: Ischaemic heart disease, Diabetes, Chronic lower respiratory
diseases, Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung, and suicide.
The latest data from the ABS
reports there were 898 deaths from COVID-19 in 2020, making it the 38th leading cause of death. This
changed dramatically in 2022, with recent estimates from the Department of
Health suggesting COVID-19 may become a leading
cause of death in Australia in 2022. The Department of Health’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases numbers and statistics reports the number of Australian deaths associated with
COVID-19, from the start of the pandemic to the end of May 2022 was 8,469. The department’s
COVID-19 Australia: Epidemiology Report 57 notes 1,319 COVID-19 associated deaths in 2021 suggesting
more than 6,200 deaths were associated with COVID-19 in 2022.
Australia’s population by
country of birth– top 10 ranking
|Country of birth
||% of all overseas
||Country of birth
||% of all
||New Zealand (2)
||South Africa (12)
||Sri Lanka (18)
|Total overseas born
||Total overseas born
ABS, Australia's Population by Country of Birth, 2021 (Canberra: ABS, 2022)
High levels of immigration
to Australia in the years before 1891 resulted in 32% of the population counted
as overseas-born in the first country-wide census in 1891 (noting that Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples were not counted until the 1971 Census). This proportion fell to a low of 10% in 1947 due to lower levels of
migration during the First World War, the Great Depression, and the Second World
War. Post-war immigration saw the proportion of overseas-born population rise rapidly.
Since then, there has been a fairly steady increase in the size of this group.
In 2021, about a
third (29.1%) of Australia’s estimated resident population were born overseas
(7.5 million people), down from 29.8% in 2020 (7.7 million people). This was
the first decrease in the proportion of people born overseas since 2000. The
decline reflects travel restrictions as a result of COVID-19, limiting overseas migration in
and out of Australia.
Australia has a relatively high proportion
of the population who are overseas born, compared with other countries with high migrant
numbers (except Saudi Arabia). In 2020, the US had 50.6 million migrants with 15.3% of their total population
born overseas, Germany had 15.8 million migrants (18.8% of their population), and
Saudi Arabia with 13.5 million migrants (38.6% of their population).
Components of population
change, to 30 June 2021
ABS, Historical Population, 2016 (Canberra: ABS, 2019); ABS National, State and Territory Population, September
growth is comprised of natural increase (births minus deaths) and net overseas
migration (NOM) (migration arrivals minus migration departures). The
contribution of these two components has changed over time. In 1978–79,
natural increase represented 68% and NOM 32%. In 2019–20, natural increase
represented 41% and NOM 59%. Population growth fell dramatically when Australian
borders closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the year ending
June 2021, natural increase was 134,800 people and NOM was minus 88,800 (a
decrease of 281,500 people since the previous year). The Australian border-opening
in February 2022 is expected to lift NOM, but it is unclear if it will return
to pre-COVID levels.
Higher education enrolment
counts by citizenship
Source: Department of Education, Skills
and Employment, Student
Enrolments Pivot Table, (Canberra:
Australian Government, 2022)
Between 2001 and 2020,
higher education enrolments in Australia almost doubled, from about 842
thousand to 1.62 million. In 2019, a third (33%) of students were from
overseas, declining to 30% in 2020. As discussed elsewhere in this Briefing book (see ‘Tertiary Education and COVID-19 recovery’), COVID-19 resulted in
declining higher education enrolments by overseas students in 2020 and 2021.
Between 2019 and 2021 overseas students declined 17.4%, from about 440,674 to
363,859. Over this same period, 40.1% fewer overseas students started a higher
education course (a decline from 177,136 to 106,113). The first quarter of 2022
shows modest signs of recovery, although total enrolment numbers are still
Trade and non-trade apprentices and trainees in-training
Note: Trade placements includes
occupations in metal manufacturing; motor vehicle repairs and maintenance;
construction; printing; food; hairdressing; wood product manufacturing and
textile; and clothing and footwear. Non-trade placements include community and
personal service workers (including health and welfare support workers, carers
and aids, hospitality workers and protective service workers); clerical and
administration workers; sales workers; machinery operator and drivers.
National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), Historical time series of apprenticeships and
traineeships in Australia (Adelaide: NCVER, 2022)
National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) June quarter 2021
report shows total apprentices in-training reached 341,385, up 28% compared
with June 2020. This increase is largely attributable to the impact of
apprentice wage subsidies of 50%, which were introduced in response to COVID-19.
These subsidies are due
to be scaled back at the end of June 2022.
The number of apprentices and trainees fell
substantially after changes
in employer incentives were introduced in July 2012. The fall in the number of non-trade
trainees employed in occupations in hospitality,
retail and administration was
more substantial (down from 299,300 in 2012 to 85,800 in 2020, which equates to
a fall of 71.3%). By comparison, the number of
trade apprentices in-training fell by 33,500 or 15.6% during the same interval.
Non-trade trainees have increased substantially in
the 12 months to 2021, up by 40,600, or 47.3%, to 126,400.
Share of Australian private
sector employment (in selected industries) by size of business
ABS, Australian Industry, 2020–21 (Canberra: ABS, 2022)
The figure above shows the
share of total private sector employment (in selected industries) by business
size (small, medium, and large) as measured by number of employees. Employment
covers all business entities operating in the Australian economy during
2020–21, including those private businesses operating in the General government
sector (Public administration and safety, for example private security firms
and private correctional services institutions), Education and training (such
as private schools, universities, and training providers), and Health care and
social assistance (including private medical practices and hospitals). A range
of business entities are excluded from the figures, including those operating
in Finance, Insurance and superannuation funds, Defence, and Private households
In the past decade there
has been a shift in the composition of private sector employment. Small
businesses (includes non-employing businesses and those employing up to 19
people) accounted for 41.3% of total private sector employment in June 2021
compared with 47.0% in June 2010.
(employing 200 people or more) accounted for 33.9% of total private sector
employment in June 2021, compared with a 29.7% in June 2010. Medium-sized
businesses (employing 20 to 199 people) accounted for 23.9% of total private sector
employment compared with 23.2% in June 2010.
Unemployment rate, seasonally
adjusted,1978 to 2021
ABS, Labour Force, April 2022 (Canberra: ABS, 2022)
unemployment rate stood at just under 4.0% in March 2022 (seasonally adjusted),
which is the lowest the rate recorded since just before the global financial crisis in mid-2008. The chart shows the impact of cyclical change on the
unemployment rate over time with peaks recorded in the recessions of the early
1980s and early 1990s.
The recession experience
of the early 1990s saw significant increases in unemployment and long-term
unemployment which took considerable government resources in the form of labour
market programs to address with varying degrees of success.
After the experience of
the early 1990s governments have been much more willing to increase spending
and introduce emergency payments quickly to stimulate economic activity and
prevent large increases in unemployment when there are signs of significant
economic downturns. For example, the Australian Government developed a $10.4 billion fiscal package to combat the impacts of the global financial crisis.
And Australia was one of a number of OECD countries that introduced job retention schemes to contain the employment and social fallout
associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Labour productivity (GDP
per hour worked)
ABS, Australian System of National Accounts, 2020-21 (Canberra: ABS, 2022)
Labour productivity is one
measure of productivity and is measured as gross domestic product (GDP) per hour
worked. Labour productivity reflects the contribution of labour to changes in production, as well
as the influences of capital and other factors affecting production.
According to Australia’s 2021
Intergenerational report labour productivity contributed more than 80%
of the growth in living standards over the last 30 years, measured by real
gross national income (GNI) per person.
In June 2021, labour
productivity was growing at an annual rate of 1.2%. Several reasons have been suggested for the slowdown in productivity growth over the
past decade, including a decline in the rate of business dynamism as measured
by declining firm entry and exit rates. Slowed rates of adoption of new
technologies have contributed to suboptimal allocation of resources to less
productive firms rather than more productive firms.
Other reasons for the
productivity slowdown include a structural shift of the economy to service
industries, such as Education and training, and Health care and social
assistance, where productivity is more difficult to measure. Measurement
difficulties have also been experienced in trying to gauge the economic impacts
of digital platforms introduced to facilitate e-commerce.
The introduction of the JobKeeper Allowance during the COVID-19 pandemic may have also had a dampening effect on
productivity, as it facilitated the survival of less productive firms which may
have ceased trading under normal business conditions.
Key Economic and Social Indicators
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