Five lessons from Tokyo, a city of 38m people, for Australia, a nation of 24m


File 20170706 18401 1osijpf
Tokyo, seen here from the Skytree tower, is home to more people than any other city on Earth but has managed to remain highly liveable.
Brendan Barrett, Author provided

Brendan F.D. Barrett, RMIT University and Marco Amati, RMIT University

Population growth has profound impacts on Australian life, and sorting myths from facts can be difficult. This article is part of our series, Is Australia Full?, which aims to help inform a wide-ranging and often emotive debate.


The release of 2016 Census data provides a good opportunity to reflect on the future growth of Australian cities. And what better example of the future to use than Tokyo?

Frequently the subject of futuristic visions, the city went through one of the world’s most rapid post-war population growth periods. The Greater Tokyo area has a population of 38 million – almost 60% more than the population of Australia. Yet Tokyo remains one of the world’s most liveable metropolises.

How can Australian cities replicate this conjuring feat while retaining their own high levels of liveability? We identify five lessons from Tokyo’s experience.

Lesson 1: manage urban growing pains

Tokyo was devastated at the end of the second world war. The city experienced rapid rebuilding and growth. The population of the central Tokyo prefecture, which is home to 13.5 million people, increased from 3.5 million in 1945 to 11.6 million in 1975.

This 30-year growth spurt happened at a rate almost twice that predicted for Greater Melbourne, for example, from 4.4 million today to 8 million by 2050.

Tokyo’s rapid growth had a number of negative impacts. These included very significant environmental pollution. The basic approach during this period was to grow first and clean up later.

The consequence for Tokyo was disorganised patterns of urban development – sprawl. The answer involved tighter planning controls and land re-adjustment programs to improve environmental conditions and ensure infrastructure was effective.

The lesson here for Australian cities is that, in the face of rapid population growth, better forward planning is the only way to avoid or minimise negative side effects.

Lesson 2: Introduce metropolitan governance

A critical factor in Tokyo’s liveability is the role of metropolitan governance in ensuring good planning and co-ordination.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government was established in 1943. In contrast, for Australian cities a metropolitan level of co-ordination is the exception rather than the rule. With Greater Melbourne, for example, the Victorian Planning Authority plays an important role but lacks oversight from local political representatives. The governor and the assembly members in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, on the other hand, are accountable to the electorate.

Tokyo’s governor, pictured campaigning for the July 2 assembly elections, is one of the most powerful politicians in Japan.
Brendan Barrett, Author provided

The Tokyo government also has considerable political autonomy since it generates 70% of its revenue from local taxation. In 2014, it had a budget of ¥13 trillion (A$151 billion) – on a par with Sweden’s. This makes the governor of Tokyo one of the most powerful politicians in Japan, second only to the prime minister.

The Tokyo government’s approach has always involved strong interventionist policy and considerable emphasis on infrastructure development, with a reliance on public-private partnerships to get results.

Lesson 3: Commit early to world-class public transport

Public-private partnerships to develop metropolitan railways has been a standard approach in Japanese cities for most of the 20th century and continues to underpin Tokyo’s success as a global city. For example, the Mitsubishi Corporation played an instrumental role in developing the Marunouchi district around Tokyo Station. The latter was built in 1914 and connected intercity stations in a loop decades before other cities.

These public-private interventions have cemented Tokyo’s status as a transit-oriented metropolis. The city has by far the highest public transport usage in the world.

Compared to other major cities like Seoul, London, New York and Beijing, Tokyoites rely far more heavily on public transport, cycling or walking to get around. In Tokyo prefecture, rail accounts for 48% of trips, bus 3%, cycling 14% and walking 23%. Private car use accounts for only 12% of trips.

A continuous investment in rail networks above and below ground would ensure Australian cities can better accommodate predicted population growth. A fascinating map designed by Adam Mattinson shows what a subway system for Melbourne could look like based on the Tokyo model. To achieve this may require that the tram system moves underground – almost certainly a pipe dream.

In Tokyo prefecture, 48% of trips are by rail as everyone lives within ten minutes’ walk of the subway station.
Brendan Barrett, Author provided

Lesson 4: Decarbonise the economy as it grows

Tokyo was lucky to be able to grow rapidly in an era when climate change was not the recognised problem that it is today.

The challenge for Australian cities will be to grow their economies while reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to match the per capita levels for Tokyo, and then to cut them much further. The World Bank calculated that in 2006, per-capita emissions for Sydney were 20.3 tonnes of CO2, compared to 4.89 tonnes for Tokyo.

Tokyo is also seeking to cut its emissions by 30% by 2030 compared to 2000. In Australia, Plan Melbourne, for example, aims to achieve a target of net zero emissions by 2050 even while the population continues to grow.

While investments in low-carbon public transport will be central to meeting this target, it is also essential to pursue ambitious energy efficiency and renewable energy targets.

Tokyo is aiming for a 38% drop in energy consumption and a rise in renewable energy from 8.7% in 2014 to 30% of electricity generation in 2030. The good news is that Plan Melbourne sets a target for renewables of 40% of electricity generation by 2025.

In a decarbonising city, mothers ride electric cycles with babies and shopping on board.
Brendan Barrett, Author provided

Lesson 5: Prepare to age with dignity

Along with declining emissions intensity, Tokyo’s population is likely to start shrinking. The population of central Tokyo is expected to rise from 13.5 million today and peak in 2020 before declining to 7.1 million by 2100. The population of Greater Tokyo is expected to peak around 38.5 million about the same time.

The population of Australian cities will plateau at some point, as in Tokyo. The next lesson would be how to deal with an ageing demographic and potential population decline.

As recently argued based on the census, a result of declining home ownership is the likelihood of couples deferring the decision to have children. A knock-on effect could therefore be a more rapidly ageing Australian population.

The Tokyo of today is certainly no utopia, due to its vulnerability to earthquakes and other natural disasters, high house prices, homelessness, rising inequality, a lack of multiculturalism and a proportion of housing as rental accommodation that dwarfs Australia’s (47.9% compared to 30.9%).

Yet the largest settlement on the planet offers useful lessons – historical, present and future – that can guide the urban policies of other countries.


The ConversationYou can read other articles in the Is Australia Full? series here.

Brendan F.D. Barrett, Senior Lecturer, Program Manager, Masters on International Urban and Environmental Management, RMIT University and Marco Amati, Associate Professor of International Planning, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Bloom and boom: how babies and migrants have contributed to Australia’s population growth


File 20170627 29088 qdwoq7
Even without immigration, new data reveals Australia’s population would continue to grow.
blvdone/Shutterstock

Tom Wilson, Charles Darwin University

Population growth has profound impacts on Australian life, and sorting myths from facts can be difficult. This is the second article in our series, Is Australia Full?, which aims to help inform a wide-ranging and often emotive debate.


Population change has long been a topic of public debate in Australia, periodically escalating into controversy.

It is inextricably linked to debates about immigration levels, labour force needs, capital city congestion and housing costs, refugee intakes, economic growth in country areas and northern Australia, the “big versus smaller” Australia debate, and environmental pressures.

Views about the rate of population growth in Australia are numerous and mixed. At one end of the spectrum are those who are vehemently opposed to further population increases; at the other end are supporters of substantially higher population growth and a “very big” Australia.

Logically, population debates usually quote Australia’s demographic statistics. But there is value in comparing our population growth in the international context.

Average growth rates compared globally

Although growth rates have fluctuated considerably from year to year, statistics just released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that Australia’s population grew by 3.75 million between 2006 and 2016. This indicates an average annual growth rate of 1.7%.

As the chart below shows, this was quite high compared to other countries and global regions. Over the decade, other English-speaking countries such as New Zealand, Canada and the US all experienced growth rates lower than Australia’s. The world’s more developed countries in aggregate grew by an annual average of 0.3%.

The world’s population as a whole increased by an average of 1.2% per year.


https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/VAIfb/1/


According to the UN Population Division, Australia ranked 90th out of 233 countries in terms of population growth rate over the decade. The countries or territories with higher growth rates were mostly less developed countries, particularly in Africa, and the oil-rich Gulf states. The only developed countries with faster rates of growth were Singapore, Luxembourg and Israel.

Why Australia’s population growth rate is higher

There are two main reasons for Australia’s high growth.

Net overseas migration (immigration minus emigration) is one major factor. It has been generating a little over half (56%) of population growth in recent years.

Demand for immigration – to settle permanently, work in Australia, or study here for a few years – is high, and there are many opportunities for people to move to Australia. In the 2015-16 financial year about 190,000 visas were granted to migrants and 19,000 for humanitarian and refugee entry. Temporary migrants included 311,000 student visas, 215,000 working holidaymaker visas and 86,000 temporary work (skilled) 457 visas.

Over the last five years, ABS figures show that immigration has averaged about 480,000 per year and emigration about 280,000. This puts annual net overseas migration at around 200,000.

This is high in international terms. UN Population Division data for the 2010-15 period reveals Australia had the 17th-highest rate of net overseas migration of any country.

But it is not just overseas migration driving Australia’s population growth. High natural increase (the number of births minus the number of deaths) also makes a substantial contribution. Natural increase has been responsible for a little under half (44%) of population growth in recent years (about 157,000 per year).

Australia has a relatively healthy fertility rate, which lately has averaged almost 1.9 babies per woman. We also enjoy one of the highest life expectancies in the world.

This combination of an extended history of net overseas migration gains, a long baby boom and a healthy fertility rate has resulted in Australia being less advanced in the population ageing transition than many other developed countries.

In particular, relatively large numbers of people are in the peak childbearing ages. This means that even if migration fell immediately to zero the population would still increase. Demographers call this age structure effect “population momentum”.

Whether Australia’s population is growing too fast

While Australia’s population growth rate is high in a global context, this does not necessarily mean its population is growing too fast. It all depends on your point of view.

It is important to stress that the overall population growth rate is just one aspect of Australia’s demography. A more comprehensive debate about the nation’s demographic trajectory should consider a broad range of issues, such as:

  • population age structure (the numbers of people in different age groups);

  • the health and wellbeing of a rapidly growing population at the highest ages;

  • population distribution across the country;

  • economic growth and development;

  • the contributions of temporary workers and overseas students;

  • appropriate infrastructure for the needs of the population; and

  • environmental management and per-capita carbon emissions.

The ConversationProgress on issues such as healthy ageing, economic development,and environmental management depend on appropriate strategies to deal with these challenges. Total population numbers will often be relevant to the discussion, but they are only part of the equation.

Tom Wilson, Principal Research Fellow, Charles Darwin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Home ownership remains strong in Australia but it masks other problems: Census data

Wendy Stone, Swinburne University of Technology; Margaret Reynolds, Swinburne University of Technology, and Terry Burke, Swinburne University of Technology

The great Australia dream of owning your own home is still alive despite the various problems plaguing housing affordability, new Census data shows. Even though the overall home ownership trend remains strong, it’s masking other issues.

The latest 2016 Census data assesses what the national home ownership and rental rates are and how these vary location. It also gives us a picture of mortgage and rental costs.

Comparing home ownership rates since the 2011 Census, there’s a slow but steady decline in home ownership rates overall – down by 2.9% from 64.9% of all Australian households in 2006, to 62.0% in 2016. However, 7.4% of households did not state their housing tenure in the 2016 Census. This accounts for some of the variation in reported rates of home ownership decline.

This contraction is nowhere of the scale of equivalent falls in home ownership in the US and UK and New Zealand over the same period.


https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/PNlfL/1/


What’s more interesting than the overall trend, is the greater decline in outright home ownership, involving no mortgage debt, from 31.0% to 29.6% between 2011 and 2016. There’s also a lesser decline in home owners who are purchasing with mortgage debt 33.3% in 2011 compared with 32.4% in 2016.

The opportunity households now have to borrow against their mortgage loans for spending undoubtedly accounts for some of this change. Also contributing to this is home purchasers are less likely to reach retirement age with no remaining mortgage debt, in the same numbers as previous eras.

Another aspect of housing affordability is masked by these numbers – the wide variation in being able to purchase a home according to age and income. Recent evidence indicates would-be-home-owners try various means including very high mortgage debt and moving to outer urban locations away from employment and into smaller dwellings, to be able to buy a house. Some even delay having kids.

Census figures show that for people wanting to purchase a home, a change in state or city location may be an option. According to the data Darwin was the most expensive city to buy in, whereas Hobart was the cheapest for home purchasers.


https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/sGKC8/1/


For households across the income spectrum, 7.2% of purchasers are paying more than 30% of their income on mortgage costs, the data shows. This figure is likely to be far higher among the lowest income (40% of households) for whom such costs place them in housing poverty.

Given the national obsession with investment in private rental, it’s no surprise that the proportion of all Australian households now renting has also increased. Census 2016 results show the private rental sector grew in size, from 20.2% in 2006, to 22.0% in 2011 and to 23.6% in 2016.


https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/rTHbP/1/

https://cdn.theconversation.com/infographics/107/a7fe544b05bc14c956aa43813d082afce81b560f/site/index.html


In 2016 a total of 2,089,633 Australian households rented privately, either from real estate agents or private landlords.

The growth of the private rental sector largely reflects the high costs of home purchase. Many households who rent have a relative lack of security and control over rental increases.

For those unable to pay rent in the private market, social housing is likely to provide little relief. Census data shows overall rates of social housing declining from 4.7% in 2006 to 4.0% in 2016. In this context, the growth in rates of homelessness in the last decade is perhaps not surprising.

For Indigenous Australians, the housing picture is different. Census 2016 data show among households in which at least one resident is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, 12.2% are outright owners, 25.9% are purchaser owners, 32.4% are renting privately. Around a fifth of households, 21.5%, live in social housing, reflecting targeted social housing programs in metropolitan, rural and regional areas.

Overall, home ownership has not changed as dramatically in the last decade, as some would have anticipated. However, it’s likely with the labour market being what it is and the adaptations people are making to try and buy a home, there may be longer-term problems to be seen in future.

The ConversationExcessive household debt, polarisation of cities into low and high income earning areas and deepening family housing constraints indicate these Census figures likely mask bigger problems. This may translate over time into a more costly social problem, as increasing proportions of households require housing assistance of some form. Australian society could become even more divided on the basis of housing wealth and opportunity, if these trends continue, as we expect they will.

Wendy Stone, Associate Professor, Centre for Urban Transitions, Swinburne University of Technology; Margaret Reynolds, Researcher, Centre for Urban Transitions, Swinburne University of Technology, and Terry Burke, Professor of Housing Studies, Centre for Urban Transitions, Swinburne University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Census 2016: what’s changed for Indigenous Australians?


File 20170627 585 yerqc9
Australia’s Indigenous population is growing – rapidly.
AAP/Dan Peled

Nicholas Biddle, Australian National University and Francis Markham, Australian National University

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a complicated history with the Australian census. Until the 1967 referendum, the question about Indigenous status was used mainly to exclude the Indigenous population from official population statistics, as required by the Constitution at that time.

Since the 1971 Census, however, the question has been used to understand Indigenous demographic and socioeconomic outcomes. This includes observing how Indigenous peoples’ situations are changing through time, and comparing them to the non-Indigenous population.

Indigenous population estimates matter for policymaking. For example, the Commonwealth Grants Commission uses estimates of the Indigenous population to advise on GST revenue allocation to the states and territories. And many Closing the Gap targets are monitored in full or in part using census data.

At the same time, many Indigenous communities and organisations argue that the way data are collected and distributed takes power out of their hands, and puts them at a disadvantage.

So, what did we learn from the most recent release of 2016 Census data?

A rapidly growing population

First, the Indigenous population is growing – rapidly. In data released on Tuesday, it was estimated there are 786,689 Australians who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. This is a 17.4% increase from 2011.

This estimate of the total Indigenous population is based on the 2016 Census, but also takes into account people who were missed in the count. Indigenous Australians are now estimated to represent 3.3% of the total Australian population, up from 3% in 2011.

Setting aside for the moment those who were missed, 649,171 people identified themselves as being “of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin” in the 2016 Census. This is up 18.4% from 2011.

There are several reasons for the rapidly growing visibility of Indigenous Australians in our population statistics.

The first is the natural increase of the Indigenous population. On average, Indigenous Australians have a slightly higher number of children than non-Indigenous Australians.

In addition, the children resulting from relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians often identify as Indigenous, accelerating the growth of the Indigenous population. However, even after taking these factors into account, the Indigenous population was projected to reach no more than 746,815 by 2016 – around 40,000 people fewer than the latest census-based estimate.

While we won’t know how accurate the assumptions underlying these projections were for some time, the probable explanation for the “extra” 40,000 Indigenous people is that some individuals who chose not to identify as Indigenous in 2011 decided to identify as Indigenous in 2016.

The change in propensity to identify as Indigenous makes comparisons over time difficult. Any change in socioeconomic outcomes is likely to partly result from changing life-chances for Indigenous Australians, but is also likely to be partly attributable to the change in the group of people who are classified part of the Indigenous population.

However, because the group of newly identifying Indigenous people is around 5% of the Indigenous population, any change in socioeconomic indicator that is greater than 5% can at least be partly attributed to a change in the circumstances of the families who identified as Indigenous in 2011.

Population geography

Regardless of what factors drove Indigenous population growth in the 2016 Census, it is clear that population growth was not evenly distributed.

As the map below of the change in census counts between 2011 and 2016 shows, the Indigenous population increased by the greatest amount in Brisbane, on the New South Wales central and north coast, and Sydney – Wollongong. Almost half (49%) of the growth of the Indigenous population occurred in just these three regions.

Conversely, the Indigenous population of the East Kimberley, Alice Springs, and several other remote regions appeared to decline slightly.

These initial figures should be interpreted cautiously. The proportion of records for whom we do not have an answer to the Indigenous status question on the census increased by about one-third between censuses. Nevertheless, it is clear that Indigenous population growth remains concentrated in NSW and Queensland.

Indigenous population change by region.
Census 2016

The changing distribution of the Indigenous population can be better understood through a cartogram, as in the figure below. Each circle represents a location defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as an “Indigenous Area”. The circles representing these locations have been sized so that their areas are proportionate to their Indigenous population count in 2011.

They have been moved on the map so they do not overlap, but under the constraint that they move as little as possible, that they remain within their state boundaries (except for the ACT), and that they retain their relative position next to each other as much as possible.

We have also added a line around the greater capital city areas to help readers identify them. Each area has been coloured in a manner that indicates the change in population between 2011 and 2016.

Indigenous population change by area.
Census 2016/Authors

What the cartogram shows very clearly is that in 2011, the Indigenous population was already highly concentrated in coastal NSW and Queensland. The cartogram suggests the Indigenous population has grown substantially everywhere in the greater Brisbane/Gold Coast region, in much of the NSW central and north coast, and around the fringes of Greater Sydney and Greater Melbourne.

The places where the Indigenous population declined tend to be locations that had a low population in 2011 and that are located in remote parts of Australia. However, there are plenty of exceptions to both of these general patterns.

Language

In 2016, the number of people speaking an Australian Indigenous language at home increased by a small amount – to 63,754 persons from 60,550 in 2011.

This was an absolute increase. But it represents a decline in the proportion speaking an Australian Indigenous language – from 11.8% in 2011 to 10.5% in 2016.

This proportionate decline may result from Indigenous population growth being concentrated in areas where Indigenous languages are less commonly spoken. So, it would be hasty to jump to the conclusion that these results suggest language loss.

Education

Indigenous people are getting into the education system earlier and staying for longer. This is likely to lead to improved socioeconomic outcomes in future.

Early childhood education rates have increased. The percentage of three-to-five-year-olds who aren’t already at primary school that were attending preschool is up from 43.5% in 2011 to 48.5% in 2016.

At the secondary school level, 59.7% of Indigenous people aged 15-18 were attending school. This is up substantially from 51.2% in 2011.

Increased school attendance has flowed through to growth in the percentage of Indigenous people aged 15 or more who have completed year 12. This rose to 34.6% in 2016 from 28% in 2011.

Finally, the proportion of Indigenous 15-24-year-olds undertaking tertiary education appears also to have grown. In 2016, 16.2% of this cohort who were not at secondary school were studying for a tertiary qualification. This is up from 14.1% in 2011.

Significantly, this growth has been driven by increased university attendance (8.5% in 2016, up from 5.8% in 2011). Attendance at technical or further educational institutions has actually been falling (7.7% in 2016, down from 8.4% in 2011). This shift from technical education to university education is suggestive of the continued growth of an Indigenous middle class.

Income

Indigenous people are also earning more on average in 2016 than 2011.

Real median weekly personal pre-tax income is up from A$397 in 2011 to A$441 in 2016. Although incomes grew generally between censuses, the growth in incomes for Indigenous people outpaced that of the rest of the population. Nevertheless, on average, Indigenous people still receive a personal income that is only two-thirds that of the non-Indigenous population.

Similar trends were evident for household income: Indigenous household incomes are increasing more rapidly than non-Indigenous household incomes.

Housing

Similarly, home ownership rates among households with at least one Indigenous resident have increased slightly, from 37.4% to 39.6%.

Households with a resident who identifies as Indigenous are also slightly less likely to be overcrowded than in the past. The proportion of households in a house that doesn’t meet the international standard for overcrowding from 11.8% to 10.4%.

At the same time, overcrowding by the same measure among non-Indigenous households has risen between 2011 and 2016, from 3.2% to 3.6%.

Tempered optimism

The 2016 Census has mostly delivered a good news story in terms of Indigenous outcomes. But the extent to which these positive results indicate that life is getting better for Indigenous families remains unclear.

At least some of these apparent improvements are likely to be the result of people of relatively high socioeconomic status identifying as Indigenous for the first time.

In addition, there were a number of census records for which we know nothing about whether the person is Indigenous – around 6% of the total count. This is because these people didn’t fill out any census form, or they didn’t answer the Indigenous status question. Either way, we need to keep this uncertainty in mind when interpreting findings.

The ConversationAnd while we have generally presented national figures here, socioeconomic outcomes for Indigenous people vary dramatically across Australia. Overall improvements, while welcome, may well mask less positive outcomes in specific regions.

Nicholas Biddle, Associate Professor, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University and Francis Markham, Research Fellow, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Census 2016 shows Australia’s changing religious profile, with more ‘nones’ than Catholics


File 20170627 25030 19zsr1
The 2016 Census showed major changes in the ranking order of religious groups in Australia.
AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Gary D Bouma, Monash University

Every five years the census asks Australians: “What is your religion?”. Ten tick-box responses are provided, along with the option to write in some other response.

In 2016 Census, the first box was for “no religion”. This was not a secularist plot, but an acknowledgement that those declaring they had “no religion” were very likely to be the most numerous category, followed by Catholics.

Alongside those declaring they have “no religion”, Australia now has – in addition to a highly diverse bloc of Christian groups that are very internally diverse – five substantial religious communities (Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Jews).

How religion in changing in Australia

The 2016 Census showed major changes in the ranking order of religious identification groups in Australia. “No religion” leads Catholic, then Anglican, Uniting, Muslim, Buddhist, Presbyterian and Reformed, Eastern Orthodox, Hindu, Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, and then Sikh.

It is important to note that to keep a stable percentage of the population from 2011 to 2016, a religious group had to grow by 8.8% – the national population growth rate.

Australia now has more Muslims and more Buddhists than Presbyterians; more Hindus than Baptists or Lutherans; and nearly as many Sikhs as Lutherans.

Among those groups attracting double-digit percentages of the population, there has been a continued rise of those declaring “no religion” to become the most numerous group (30.1%). Catholics are at 22.6%, while Anglicans – who had been nudged out of the top spot in 1986 – have now slipped from a high of 41% in 1921 to third place at 13.3%.

Among those groups attracting between 2% and 5% of the population, the Uniting church has declined to 3.7%, while Presbyterians (2.3%) are now behind Buddhists (2.4%). But both have been overtaken by Muslims (2.6%). Thanks to migration, Hindus continued their rapid rise to achieve 1.9%.

Among those groups clustered around 1%, Pentecostals remain unchanged (1.1%). Lutherans (0.7%) are down from 1.2% in 2011.

The two fastest-growing religious groups since 2011 are Sikhs, who grew by 74.1%, and the “Other Protestant” category, which grew by 79.8%. Both are now 0.5% of the population, and are more numerous than Jews (0.4%).

The Other Protestant category includes many who just wrote in “Protestant”, and those identifying with unaffiliated congregations. This category’s growth, along with that labelled “Christian not further defined” (to 2.6%), is an indication of the decline of the importance of denominational labels to Australians who prefer to just indicate they are Christian. This is also an indication of religious groups’ increasing diversity in Australia.

The Christian proportion of the population has fallen to just over 50%, down from 88% 50 years ago. More significantly, the British Protestant percentage has declined to about 20%, making it smaller than Catholics. This marks a major shift in Australian culture, which – until about 1990 – was resolutely British Protestant, with Anglicans, Presbyterians and Methodists dominant.

Not only has the proportion of Christians declined, it has become much less British Protestant. Australia’s religious life has changed beyond recognition from the 1950s and 1960s, when British Protestants comprised two-thirds of the population.

Many who were raised in those decades, including political and business leaders, still hold that form of Australia to be normal and expected. This expectation is not shared by those aged under 50.

Formerly dominant organised forms of religious life are attracting fewer participants and fewer who identify with them – but they are far from dead. While no longer dominant, they form part of a diverse array of identities and commitments that shape Australians’ lives.

When the full results become available, we will be able to see how many Australians identify with the myriad small groups – Zoroastrians, Satanists, Scientologists, witchcraft/wicca, and more.

What we can draw from these results

Neither those who would declare that Australia is a Christian country nor those who see the rise of those declaring “no religion” as the death knell of religion can take heart from this census.

Rather, the results show the diversity of Australia’s religious life. That only 9.6% refused to reply to this question – the only optional question on the census – tells us that religious identity is still of interest to Australians.

Also, declaring “no religion” does not mean that someone is anti-religious, lacking is spirituality, or an atheist. It means they just do not identify with a particular organised form of religion.

The response to the religion question provides an indication of a person’s cultural orientation and formation. Religion, culture and formation used to be overlapping and reinforcing categories. For example, Catholics were Irish, went to Catholic schools, and shared certain orientations. Presbyterians were British (Scots or Northern Irish), went to state or private schools, and shared certain orientations.

While this overlapping is no longer true, religious identity is far from meaningless. The census provides a moving series of snapshots of religious identity. But it does not tell us about religious belief, practice, or anything else about a person’s religious life.

The ConversationThe changing pattern of the diversity of religious identities is one indicator of a society’s degree of multiculturalism. On this measure, Australia is among the most diverse.

Gary D Bouma, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Census 2016 puts on display the increasing diversity in Australians’ relationships


File 20170627 2582 2jfva8
Much of the change in partnering in Australia has been in response to changing legal and social norms.
AAP/Alan Porritt

Edith Gray, Australian National University and Ann Evans, Australian National University

The types of romantic relationships Australians have, as well as the way they are recognised and measured, have changed dramatically in the last 30 years.

Much of the change in partnering has been in response to changing legal and social norms. Childbearing has been decoupled from intimate relationships by the widespread availability and use of contraception and the availability of abortion. Divorce is easier to access; women play a much greater role outside the home.

These and other forces have led to delays in marriage, increasing co-habitation (couples living together), and a larger proportion of the population who re-partner or have more than one relationship throughout their adult life.

Key trends

Results from the 2016 Census, released today, allow us to track marriage and co-habitation trends for both heterosexual and same-sex couples.

In 2001 and 2016, around 40% of Australians were classified as single. By age, this pattern declines until the mid-30s, and then increases in older ages due to divorce and widowhood.

The pattern is more obvious for women – particularly in the older ages, as they are more likely to experience the death of their partner.

There has been a slight increase in co-habitation overall to 10% of Australians, and a corresponding decrease in marriage to just under 50%.

What has changed the most in these relationship patterns is that co-habitation was predominantly confined in 2001 to people in their 20s and 30s. In 2016, cohabitation is also a significant feature for people up to their mid-60s.

Same-sex couples have been identified in the census since 1996. Over each successive census, the number of couples identifying as same-sex has increased. In 2016, 46,800 couples were same-sex – an increase of 39% from 2011.

The 2011 Census showed people in same-sex couples are, on average, younger, more educated, employed in higher-status occupations, and have higher incomes.

The 2011 Census allowed same-sex couples to identify their relationship as a marriage for the first time. As would be expected, the numbers are small (1,338) – but they will rise over time, as more people travel overseas to marry legally and in the event Australia legislates for marriage equality.

What all this means

The rise of co-habitation has led to speculation that marriage is out of fashion and could disappear altogether. Our research shows the institution of marriage is not outdated. The nature of marriage is evolving, as people manage the changing role of intimate relationships in their lives.

It is also true that the marriage equality debate will lead to a re-imagining of marriage for both homosexual and heterosexual couples. Most Australians still marry, and there is no evidence that marriage will disappear – despite predictions.

However, while marriage may have lost its practical importance, its symbolic importance still seems to be high. In many ways, getting married is still seen as a marker of achievement.

Perhaps new ways of forming relationships and childbearing are not a threat to marriage: they may be a signal of the fact that more options are now available.

The distinction between same-sex and heterosexual relationships is complicated by the measurement of gender itself.

For the first time, the 2016 Census allowed non-binary gender as a response to the question of sex, although people identifying as other than male or female were required to use the paper form or to request a special online form. This would have significantly affected the overall count of people who identify as neither male nor female.

There were 1,300 validated responses that indicated a sex other than male or female. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has also estimated an additional 2,400 people responded both male and female on the paper form.

The ConversationOverall, the census shows a decrease in the proportion of Australians who are married, and an increase in co-habitation of both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. We predict this will continue to rise in future censuses.

Edith Gray, Associate Professor, School of Demography, Australian National University and Ann Evans, Associate Dean (Research Training), College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Census 2016 reveals Australia is becoming much more diverse – but can we trust the data?


File 20170626 309 8wqfyz
The ABS estimates that as of December 2016, the Australian population was around 24.4 million.
AAP/Alan Porritt

Nicholas Biddle, Australian National University

According to data released today, there were 23,401,892 people who were counted in Australia on the night of the 2016 Census who were usually resident in Australia.

After adjusting for undercount and adding back those who were overseas on census night, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates that as of December 2016, Australia’s population was around 24.4 million.

Our population is growing – and fast. But can we trust the numbers?

Issues with quality

For the first time, the ABS asked an independent assurance panel to look into the census’ quality. While this was prompted by the failure of the online portal on census night, and the privacy concerns expressed by many, the additional scrutiny is a good idea.

The panel reported that the 2016 Census is “of comparable quality to 2006 and 2011 and comparable collections internationally”. It reported there was a lower net undercount (that is, people who were missed from the census) in 2016 than there was for 2006 and 2011.

This means, for the most part, we should believe the results from the 2016 Census. All data has its limitations. But it would appear that with the information we currently have the data is robust enough, at least at the national level.

But, as always, the devil is in the detail. For some individual questions, there was a high level of non-response – and that needs to be taken into account.

How we’re changing

The data tell us quite a lot about who we are as a nation, and how our characteristics are changing. The 2016 Census reveals that Australia is becoming much more diverse – in language, country of birth, Indigenous status, and religion.

In the 2011 Census, 69.8% of people reported being born in Australia. This declined over the past five years to 66.7%.

The percentage of Australia’s current population who were born in England has also declined, from 4.2% to 3.9%. Simultaneously, there was a dramatic increase in the percentage born in China – 1.5% to 2.2% – and born in India – 1.4% to 1.9%.

This increase has been driven in part by the higher rate of mortality of the Australian- and European-born populations, who are much older than more recent migrant groups. More importantly, though, most of our more recent arrivals are from Asia. Combined, those born in India, China and the Philippines made up 33% of all those who now live in Australia who arrived between 2007 and 2016.

Australia’s Indigenous population is also growing – quite rapidly.

In 2016, there were 649,171 usual residents who were identified as being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. For those who answered the question, this represents an increase from 2.7% to 3% of the total Australian population.

When undercount is adjusted for, the ABS estimates that 786,689 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should have been counted in the census. This is a growth of 18.8%, concentrated mainly in New South Wales and Queensland, and is much faster than the growth of the non-Indigenous population.

There was also a decline in the proportion of people who spoke English as their main language at home (76.8% in 2011 to 72.7% in 2016), an increase in those reporting no religion (21.8% to 29.6%), and a very rapid increase in the number of same-sex couples (a 39% increase to 46,800 couples).

One result that needs to be treated with care is the high and increasing rate of non-responses recorded to some of these questions. There were 1,622,692 people recorded as “not stated” for the country-of-birth question, and 1,411,491 who were recorded as not stated for the Indigenous status question. This was an increase of 35.7% and 33.3% respectively from 2011, which was much faster than the growth of the total population.

That doesn’t mean that all or even most of these records are people refusing to answer the question. Rather, most are records that have been imputed due to missed households or individuals.

However, we do need to make sure we carefully exclude these records from our calculations. And more research is needed to uncover whether and why there are a number of people not answering individual items.

Implications for policy

Leaving these issues aside, there were some interesting findings that touch on ongoing policy debates.

The Gonski 2.0 school funding reforms passed parliament last week. But there was actually a decline in the proportion of infants/primary school students who were attending a non-government school since the last census, from 32.7% to 31.8% between 2011 and 2016.

There was a slight increase in the proportion for secondary school students (42.1% to 42.8% in non-government schools). This means the proportion across all schools was roughly stable (36.5% in 2016 compared to 36.7% in 2011).

There is more to the school funding debate than simply government versus non-government. But the census results show the move to the non-government sector seen over previous periods may have slowed, or even reversed.

Another important current policy debate relates to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). While the census isn’t ideal for understanding changes in rates of disability, there is a very important question about whether people have a “core activity need for assistance”.

One particular result stands out – the rapid increase in the number of children and youth reported to have such a need. Between 2011 and 2016, the proportion of those aged 19 years or under reported as having a core activity need for assistance increased from 2.1% to 2.7%, excluding the not-stated population.

These proportions might not seem large. But it is an extra 38,209 individuals, or a 34.5% increase in children and youth with a core activity need for assistance.

Finally, even if the policy responses weren’t large, the most recent federal budget and election both had a heavy focus on housing affordability and home ownership. The census doesn’t have information on house prices, but it does show that the median mortgage payment in Australia in 2016 was A$1,755 per month. Sydney, Darwin and Canberra all have median payments of $2,000 or more.

Over the longer term, the proportion of the Australian population who own their home outright (that is, without a mortgage) has declined from 41.1% in 1991 to 31% in 2016. Much of that decline has been made up for by an increase in the proportion renting (either from government or a private landlord) from 26.9% to 30.9% over the same period.

These are just a snapshot of 2016 Census results. For the most part, we can be confident that, in the words of the Australian Statistician David Kalisch:

The 2016 Census data provides a detailed, accurate and fascinating picture of Australia and our communities.

The ConversationFor individual data items, we need to be more careful and circumspect. But we now have a much better idea on our nation and how it is travelling.

Nicholas Biddle, Associate Professor, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.