Australia’s changing age and gender profile

Population ageing

In 2016, there were 3.7 million (15%) Australians aged 65 and over-increasing from 319,000 (5%) in 1926 and 1.3 million (9%) in 1976 (Figure 1) [1, 2]. The number and proportion of older Australians is expected to continue to grow. By 2056, it is projected there will be 8.7 million older Australians (22% of the population); by 2096, 12.8 million people (25%) will be aged 65 years and over [1].

Figure 1: Australian population aged 65 and over, at 30 June, over time (per cent)

The vertical bar chart shows that the proportion of people aged 65 and over has increased from 5%25 to 15%25 between 1926 and 2016. The projected figures show that this will rise to 22%25 in 2056, and 25%25 by 2096.

Sources: ABS [1, 2].

As Australia's population ages, its age profile is also projected to change. In 2016, half of Australia's older people (57%, or 2.1 million) were aged 65–74, one-third were aged 74–84 (30%, or 1.1 million), and 13% were aged 85 and over (487,000) (Figure 2). By 2046, it is projected there will be more than 3.3 million people aged 65–74, though this represents a smaller proportion of all older people (45%) [1]. People aged 75–84 will account for 35% (2.6 million) of the population and almost 1 in 5 older people will be aged 85 and over (19%, or 1.4 million) (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Projected Australian population aged 65 and over, by age group, 30 June, 2016 and 2046

The split horizontal bar graph shows the projected age profile change of older Australians between 2016 and 2046. In 2016, 2.1 million older Australians were aged 65-75, 1.1 million were aged 75-84 and 487,000 were 85 and over. This is projected to increase to 3.3 million for people aged 65-74, 2.6 million aged 75-85, and 1.4 million aged 85 and over.

Source: ABS [3].

Like many developed countries, Australia has a high median age: a relatively large proportion of its population is aged 65 and over. In 2015, the median age in Australia was 37.4 [4]—slightly lower than that in the United Kingdom (40.0) and Canada (40.6) [5]. The proportion of people aged 65 and over in these countries was similar to Australia's­—15% in the United Kingdom and 16% in Canada [5], compared with 15% in Australia [1].   

Sex

Women tend to live longer than men [4]. This is seen in the differences in life expectancy and is particularly apparent in older age groups. In 2016, approximately half of all people aged 65–74 (51%) and 75–84 (54%) were women. This rose to 63% for people aged 85 and over [1].

Figure 3: Proportion (per cent) of women in age groups 65–74, 75–84, 85+ years, 2016

Vertical bar chart showing; age group (65-74, 75-84, 85plus years) on the x axis; proportion who are women (0 to 100 per cent) on the y axis.

The proportion of women in the older age groups peaked in 1968, when women made up 58% of all people aged 65 and over. This proportion has been declining since. The peak for women aged 65–74 was in 1965 (56%) and for those aged 75–84 in 1974 (64%); for women aged 85 and over, it peaked in 1982 (73%) [2].

References

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2013. Population projections, Australia, 2012 (base) to 2101. ABS cat. no. 3222.0. Canberra: ABS.
  2. ABS 2014. Australian historical population statistics, 2014. ABS cat. no. 3105.0.65.001. Canberra: ABS.
  3. ABS 2015. Population by age and sex, regions of Australia, 2014. ABS cat. no 3235.0. Canberra: ABS.
  4. ABS 2016. Migration, Australia, 2014–15. ABS cat. no. 3412.0. Canberra: ABS.
  5. United Nations (UN) 2015. World population ageing: profiles of ageing 2015. New York: UN. Viewed 1 June 2016.