Department of Family and Community Services

Population structure

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As reported in 2012, population ageing in Australia, as in most developed countries, is a result of sustained low fertility and increasing life expectancy. Figure 1.1 shows the distribution of the NSW female population in 1961 and 2011. Over the past 50 years there has been a marked decrease in the proportion of the population in the younger age groups, and a corresponding increase in the older age groups.1

Another way to look at population is to compare median age. Median age refers to the age at which approximately half of the population is older and half is younger. The median age of NSW women increased from 29 years in 1961, to 38 years in 2011, a gain of nine years in four decades. This change is nearly two years more than the change in the median age of men.2

The population distribution of Aboriginal women differs strikingly from that of non-Aboriginal women. As shown in Figure 1.2 the majority of Aboriginal women (60 percent) are under the age of 40. The largest groups of Aboriginal women are those aged 0-9 and those aged 10-19. Comparatively, the largest groups of non-Aboriginal women are those aged 40-49 and those aged 30-39.

NSW women also have a longer life expectancy than men, though this is changing. Although women can still expect to live longer than men, the difference between the sexes is decreasing. In NSW in 2011, female life expectancy was 4.4 years higher than that of males. This compares with a difference of 5.5 years in 2001 (Figure 1.3).

In 2011, 5.0 percent of the NSW population reported that they required assistance with core activities. Women were more likely than men to report that they required assistance with core activities (5.3 percent of women compared to 4.8 percent of men).3 Figure 1.4 shows how this changes with different age groups. Men represent the largest group of people needing assistance in the younger age groups, whereas women comprise a larger portion of those needing assistance in the older age groups. 

Figure 1.1 Population distribution, NSW women by age, 1961 and 2011

Fig 1.1

Population: All NSW women.

Source: ABS (2008) Australian Historical Population Statistics, 2008. Cat no. 3105.0; ABS Census of Population and Housing 2011.

Figure 1.2 Population distribution, NSW women by age and Aboriginal status, 2011

Fig 1.2

Population: All NSW women.

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing 2011.

Figure 1.3 Life expectancy at birth, NSW, 2001 to 2011

Fig 1.3

Population: NSW girls and boys born between 2001 and 2011.

Source: ABS (2011) Deaths, Australia. Cat no. 3302.0.

Figure 1.4 Need for assistance with core activities by sex, NSW, 2011

Fig 1.4

Population: NSW people who indicated that they required assistance with core activities.

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing 2011.


1 ABS (2010) Population by Age and Sex, Regions of Australia, 2010. Cat no. 3105.0.

2 ABS (2008) Australian Historical Population Statistics, 2008. Cat no. 3105.0.65.001. 

3 This section is drawn from Census 2011 data. It should be noted that this data does not indicate the severity of the disability nor does it indicate the total number of hours of assistance required.