Census 2016: Changes in Ausltralia

Sue Taylor, the Director of Census Data, explains to Ross Greenwood how Australia has changed over the 5 years since the last census

Introduction  Census 2016

Ross Greenwood: First up on the program, I want to take you to the National Census. Now you might remember, the night that all was originally supposed to be put out. It was a drama because there was an attack or, as it turned out, it wasn’t really an attack but it was thought to be an attack at the time on the actual database of the Australian Bureau of Statistics and so it was closed down for a period of time, but today we see the census.

I’m going to say it’s always an exciting time. The reason is we find out the way that Australia is changing. How are we changing? Well, for example, now England is now not the predominant source of new migrants coming into the country. People of Chinese and Asian ethnicity are very much that with 23.4 million people, according to the census.

Our average age is 38. A quarter of the people are born overseas in Australia. There are more women than men, 50.7% female, 49.3% male. 29.6% of people in Australia say they have no religion at all. 25.3% say they’re Catholic. You’ve also got a situation where some 13.3% say they are Anglican. 48% of people are married, 44.7% have kids. In other words, this is Australia today.

To try and look in some depth at this because if you get the census, you can work out where the population is going. It’s always a pretty good guide as to where investment or property assets might be acquired in the future as well. Sue Taylor is a director of census data and joins me now. Many thanks for your time, Sue.

Interview with Sue Taylor Director Census Data

Sue Taylor: My pleasure.

Ross: It’s incredible seeing a snapshot of Australia, and we are changing over the decades, aren’t we?

Sue: We are indeed. The few ways in which we are changing and we can see that in this census, first of all, we’re growing. Secondly, we’re aging as a population. We’re also diversifying. We’re less religious, and we’re more urbanized than we’ve been before.

Ross: The interesting thing is that though there is a debate about immigration in Australia, that is not necessarily the role that you play. You simply put out the information and let others decide whether they believe Australia is changing for the better or for the worse, but the fact of the matter is that Australia is changing.

Sue: Australia is changing. Look, Australia’s been changing for decades now. What we’re seeing is quite a shift in our overseas-born population. If we look at the total overseas-born population, still England and New Zealand are up there, followed by China and India. If you take a different look, and that’s looking at migrants who’ve come in over the last 10 years to live in Australia, there’s a different picture. Seven of the top 10 countries of birth over the last 10 years are from Asia, headed up by India and then by China.

interviewer: The other point also is that this trend is likely to continue while immigration rates remain so high. Do you believe, also, that it is the changing demographic in regards to the number of people born overseas that may also have some influence on the number of people who now claim to have no religion whatsoever?

Sue: Well, interestingly enough, if we look at people responding to the no religion option, you’re more likely to do that if you’re an Australian-born than if you are overseas-born. It is an Australian born-phenomena, because if you’re overseas-born you’re more likely to be saying that you’re a religion other than Christianity or a Christian.

Ross: What about the wealth of Australian households? That also comes into this, the income that they have and also the wealth because that will largely come from whether they own their own home or not. This also comes out of this data, doesn’t it?

Sue: Look, it does. Again, we’re seeing a fascinating change in picture that. Look, 25 years ago, the most common form of dwelling tenure, as we call it, housing tenure, was to own a home outright. 41% of homes 25 years ago, were owned outright.

Ross: In other words, we’re saying no mortgage, owned outright. The people had paid off their mortgages.

Sue: That’s right. It was 41%, it’s now 31%. What’s happened is that to buy a house with a mortgage, that’s the most common arrangement now. That’s 35% of Australian homes are being bought with a mortgage. We’re also seeing an increase in the number of properties that are rented, so that’s gone up to 31% now as well.

Ross: As compared with five years ago, a very telling statistic that came out today is while the median household mortgage repayment on a monthly basis in 2011 was $1,800, today, according to the census information, it’s $1,755. Notwithstanding the rise in property values around Australia since then, the big fall in interest rates is reflected by people having lower monthly household mortgage repayments.

Sue: Indeed, that’s true but I guess if you’re living in Sydney, then Sydney still stands out in terms of the size of mortgages that the people are paying and the size of the renters as well. Sydney was only second behind Darwin in having the highest median mortgage repayments, and Sydney had the highest median rent payment.

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