Issue 6
Tuesday, 07 August 2018
Charles Darwin University
Demographer Dr Tom Wilson estimates the strongest growth to occur in capital cities
Demographer Dr Tom Wilson estimates the strongest growth to occur in capital cities

Aussie cities on track for 8 million people

By Patrick Nelson

Australia’s population is on track to reach “somewhere in the high 30 millions” by the middle of the century with Sydney and Melbourne to top over eight million people each, a leading demographer reported to a national conference in Darwin recently.

Charles Darwin University Northern Institute Principal Research Fellow Dr Tom Wilson said Sydney and Melbourne would be similar in population by mid-century, and about the size that London is today.

“We expect to see some growth in regional Australia but stronger growth in the capital cities. The percentage of people living in metropolitan areas will increase from about 67 per cent today to about 73 per cent by mid-century,” Dr Wilson said.

“These estimates are based on business-as-usual projections, which of course may change, but they are the sort of numbers that we’re heading for.”

Dr Wilson is one of several Territorians who addressed the three-day Australian Population Association Conference. 

“My presentation was in the context of Australia’s current population, which sits about 25 million,” Dr Wilson said.

“I spoke about a range of issues that Australia will have to contend with in order to adapt to cities that are so much bigger than they are today.

“We will need to consult and plan for the basics like water and power, and provide more in terms of schooling and health. Affordable housing and commuting times in an ever-reaching urban sprawl are other topics that planners will need to address. In terms of transport, part of the solution will rest with good public systems in the suburbs, if the example in places like New York, London and Tokyo are any indication,” he said.

Dr Wilson said Australia’s Indigenous population had jumped markedly between the past two censuses. 

“The Indigenous population grew by 19 per cent between 2011 and 2016. And we saw a net increase of about 80,000 people identifying as Indigenous in 2016 who didn’t identify in 2011.

“Assuming that continues, we would expect the Australian Indigenous population to reach one million in four or five years’ time, and over two million by mid-century.”

Dr Wilson said that Australia’s population was likely to increase by about two million every five years, based on averages from the past decade.

“This is in part due to Australia’s healthy fertility rate and partly due to our overseas migration settings. Both major political parties acknowledge the advantages of migration, such as bringing in workers and expanding domestic markets, so I suspect those policy levers will remain much the same.”