In this final part of the demographic trends series, Tracey Cook examines the future population trends in store for WA.
WESTERN Australia’s population is expected to increase by 19 per cent during the next seven years, and by 2031 the figure is tipped to reach 2.22 million, an increase of 52 per cent on the 2001 population count.
This translates into a need to accommodate 375,000 new dwellings, 340,000 of which will be in metropolitan locations.
In comparison, the number of dwellings in the Perth and Peel region stood at 580,000 in 2001.
This projected population growth is not expected to come from the local birth rate, however.
For WA to maintain its population levels the fertility rate needs to be 2.1 children per female. But the trend towards delaying marriage and childbirth and a greater incidence of childlessness have pushed WA’s fertility rate to just 1.7.
Over the next 25 years the population of Perth will increase by 760,000, with 500,000 coming from migration and 260,000 from births.
Overseas migration overtook natural population increase as the main population growth driver in 2001.
Australian Bureau of Statistics economic and social statistics director, Nev Cooney, said the fertility rate was expected to decrease further as many women of the baby boomer generation past beyond child bearing age.
Mr Cooney said figures for 2001 showed WA had the highest proportion of people born overseas of any State or Territory, and that this percentile was expected to increase further as fertility rates slumped.
At the same time, WA is losing 1000 people per quarter to interstate migration. Queensland, on the other hand, is attracting about 30,000 new residents a year.
Another growing trend is the number of people living alone. This national development is reflected by the increase in studio and one-bedroom apartments on the property market.
Between 1992 and 2001 there was a 37 per cent increase in higher density housing. In comparison, stand-alone dwellings increased by 18 per cent. It’s expected that, by 2006, the number of people living alone will increase to 30 per cent of the total population.
While the bulk of this group will be made up of widows, divorcees over 45 and people aged in their 30s and 40s who have never married or don’t plan on having children are being represented in growing numbers.
Mr Cooney said that, while the average household size had shrunk from 3.3 persons per household in 1971 to 2.6 persons in 2001, house sizes were getting bigger.
“The floor areas of new residential buildings in WA has increased by 11 per cent in the last four years to 218.6 sqm,” he said.
A Department of Planning and Infrastructure spokesperson said that, traditionally, most of Perth’s growth was experienced on the urban fringe due to the availability and affordability of land.
“If it continues this way there will be a stream of growth from Bunbury to Guilderton,” she said.
The spokesperson said a forum called ‘Dialogue with the City’ was being held in September in an attempt to garner community input into long-term planning for the region.
She said delegates would look at issue such as where to house the growing population, where to place required infrastructure and whether more people should be encouraged to live in regional areas.