Who are Australia's older people?

30 October 2012 | CO/66

The Census of Population and Housing is a valuable statistical record of Australia, charting the significant changes that have occurred in Australia's history over the past century.

On August 9 2011, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) conducted the 16th national Census, which also marked 100 years of national Census taking in Australia.

Who are Australia’s older people?, the latest in a series of analytical articles produced by the ABS, focuses on how Australia's older population has changed since 1901 – their birthplaces, languages, religious affiliations and educational qualifications.

In 1901, people aged 65 years and over accounted for just four per cent of the population. The latest analysis from the ABS shows people aged 65 years and over now account for 14 per cent of the population.

Census Executive Director Andrew Henderson said that Australia’s population has been ageing since the first national Census 100 years ago.

“ABS data shows that Australia’s population is ageing as a result of increasing life expectancy and sustained low fertility following the post-war baby boom,” Mr Henderson said.
Mr Henderson added that the historical Census data shows stark contrasts between Australia’s older and younger generations.
“The time series shows a clear distinction between those aged more than 65 years, and Australia’s younger generations.

“More than a third, 36 per cent, of older Australians was born overseas, compared with 24 per cent of those aged less than 65 years,” Mr Henderson added.

There are also differences in people’s religious or spiritual beliefs.

“In 2011, 81 per cent of Australians aged 65 years and over, identified an affiliation with a religion, or some form of spirituality.

“This is higher than the proportion for younger Australians, where 67 per cent reported a religious or spiritual affiliation,” Mr Henderson said.

Consistent with this, only 10 per cent of older Australians reported having no religion, compared with 24 per cent for those aged less than 65 years.

Further information is available in Who are Australia’s older people?,This is one of a series of articles to be progressively released in Reflecting a Nation: Stories from the 2011 Census (cat. no. 2071.0).

The series and data from the 2011 Census of Population and Housing is now available on the ABS website, visit www.abs.gov.au/census