Australia’s population to grow from 22 to 42 million by 2050, modelling shows
AUSTRALIA’S population will reach 42 million by 2050, six million more than the Federal Government’s target, if migration, fertility and life expectancy continue at today’s pace.
Modelling by Australia’s Centre for Population and Urban Research warned of a doubling of the population in 40 years, which it also claimed would be unsustainable, and significantly outstrips Federal Government targets.
Cities such as Sydney and Melbourne would evolve into mega high rise metropolises on the scale of Hong Kong, with a drastic deterioration in quality of life for its inhabitants, it warned.
The research conducted by Professor Bob Birrell, one of the country’s leading demographers at Monash University, said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s target of 36 million people would be overshot based on the current net migration rate of 298,000 a year.
Under a business as usual scenario, Sydney would have a population of more than 7.5 million and Melbourne upwards of 6.5 million and both would need to be redesigned to cope.
Treasury modelling contained in the third Intergenerational Report forecast a population of 35.9 million by 2050 but assumed returning to a net migration rate of 180,000 a year.
Professor Birrell’s modelling based on Treasury figures showed a continued rate of 298,000 would produce a population of 42.3 million based on greater life expectancies and lower birth rate of 1.9, as well as immigration. The workforce would be 22 million.
A lower net migration rate of 125,000 – the average from 1996 to 2007 – would result in a national population of 32 million. Professor Birrell warned the Federal Government had to return to a figure of 180,000 a year from existing higher levels if it wanted to avoid overshooting its own target of 36 million.
But even at these lower rates, Professor Birrell warned that cities such as Sydney and Melbourne would need to be completely redesigned. “We have to get down to that figure quickly, in the next few years,” he said yesterday. “It’s to do with economies of scale – to refit a city is an enormous exercise.”
Opposition Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said it was time there was a rational debate about population growth.
“It is clear Rudd’s idea of a big Australia seems to start at 36 million. Where it ends, we simply don’t know,” he said.
“By contrast the Coalition is keen to engage in what is a sustainable growth path for Australia and engage with business, the community and the environment lobby and plan our migration intakes appropriately.”
While Mr Rudd had originally suggested that 36 million was a “target” population for Australia, his newly-appointed Population Minister Tony Burke has been keen to backtrack and claim it is merely a forecast.
“A figure of 36 million is a very high level and vastly higher than most people imagined until the [report] was released. Imagine 42 million,” Professor Birrell said. “It would involve a serious deterioration in quality of life and a fundamental change to the way people live.”