Census 2016: Capitals stay young while regions keep ageing
PART 2: AGEING REGIONS
The rate of ageing in Australia’s capitals is frozen in time. Since 2011, the median age of Greater Sydney and Melbourne hasn’t budged from 36, but it is accelerating in regions. Across both regional New South Wales and Victoria, the median age has risen from 41 to 43. Our remote regional populations have much lower average ages so it is the inland areas of the east coast that are ageing fastest. This pattern is occurring across the country and looking into the latest ABS Census figures, it’s not hard to see why.
Since 2011, the number of Local Government Areas (LGAs) where those aged over 65 make up 20 per cent of the local population has more than doubled to 191. The vast majority are regional LGAs.
Across regional Australia people over 65 account for 19 per cent of the population – almost 1 in every 5 people. In places like Hinchinbrook, Tweed, and Mid Murray over 25 per cent of the local population is over 65. In places like Victor Harbor, Eurobodalla, and Mid-Coast, they account for more than a third of the local community.
While certain places have had a relatively high proportion of older residents for some time, the share of older Australians in some regions has grown more rapidly. In places like Busselton those over 65 grew by 2,317 in the last five years, a 47 per cent increase from 2011.
For these regions, the increase in their older population should ring alarm bells. But not because it means more aged care beds. Instead, the increase of people aged over 65 years means a shrinking workforce for many regional communities, with large sections of the population reaching retirement age. Keeping these people in the workforce for as long as possible is likely to be a key priority for many regional economies in the years ahead.
Longer life expectancy and better health outcomes means that Australians are increasingly able to work for longer. Doing so can have enormous benefits to regional communities, with the increase in consumption power from greater workforce participation among older residents being substantial. This latest ABS data shows that now more than ever, a proactive approach to our ageing population is needed.
The RAI is in the process of finalising its latest work focused on improving workforce participation of older Australians and the potential benefits to regions. We look forward to sharing this with you soon.
Figure 1 – Proportion of LGA population over the age of 65 years, ABS Census of Population and Housing 2016