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Demographer to target regional populations

By Patrick Nelson

Dr Tom Wilson … “Better data allows for better planning” Dr Tom Wilson … “Better data allows for better planning”

Charles Darwin University’s new population scientist says Australia’s rapidly changing demographic mix underpins the need to develop more accurate methods for forecasting population.

Dr Tom Wilson, who has joined CDU’s Northern Institute Demography and Growth Planning Team as Principal Research Fellow, said that more accurate projections were needed for a wide variety of policy and planning purposes.

“Population forecasts often turn out to be far more inaccurate than users realise, yet billions of dollars in government expenditure are allocated every year based on available numbers,” Dr Wilson said.

“Better quality data will help us determine where our population is going and what’s happening to our society. One question we might ask, for example, is: will the Territory’s population reach a million people?

“Better data would allow for better planning in terms of hospital beds, school places, employment, aged care facilities and appropriate services.

“There is a lot of data we don’t have and there’s a lot that can be improved.”

Dr Wilson, a career demographer who has worked primarily in the academic sector, said he was particularly interested in improving the accuracy of regional and local population forecasts.

It’s an area he’ll be able to focus on, following a successful application to the Australian Research Council, which has awarded him a $294,000 grant for his project entitled Improving Sub-National Population Forecasts.

“The aim of the project is to make significant advances in two related areas of regional and local population forecasts: improving accuracy and providing an indication of forecast uncertainty.

“I’ll be combining methods from a range of disciplines to devise more accurate ways of forecasting populations and to provide information on the margin of error,” he said.