Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Australian Population Association Conference: Coming to Darwin in 2018!

A beautiful Darwin dry season sunset

Fresh from analysing newly released 2016 Census data, population experts, researchers, practitioners and students will be in Darwin on 18-20 July 2018 for the Australian Population Association’s 19th biennial conference. Along with stimulating content and great networking opportunities, delegates will enjoy Darwin’s perfect dry season weather, its warm and laid-back atmosphere and some ‘only locals know’ highlights. Population issues are paramount for the Northern Territory as we continue to experience relatively low rates of growth, affecting our economy and GST share. The 2018 conference will not only bring a large number of delegates to Darwin, contributing to businesses and our economy, it is an opportunity to present our research and discuss Territory population issues on the national stage.
We are leading the organisation of this major event with support from the Northern Territory Department of Treasury and Finance. The academic program is being managed by Dr Tom Wilson and will be contemporary and insightful. Attendees will experience fantastic value for money and the warmth and culture of our beautiful Top End. I urge academics, planners, policy makers, students and anyone with an interest in population related issues to pencil in the dates of 18-20 July 2018. More information will be available in coming months so stay tuned here and on the Australian Population Association’s website (

See you up North in 2018!

Demography North

Monday, 24 April 2017

Workforce Ageing in the Territory: The costs of doing nothing

Inclusion and Diversity Human Resource Forum

Dr Andrew Taylor

Today Andrew Taylor spoke at the Inclusion and Diversity Human Resource forum at CDU’s Waterfront Campus. His analysis shows the NT Public Service workforce is much older than the general population and older than other  State and Territory government workforces. The NT workforce, unlike the NT population generally, has significantly more females than males, at 61% females. This means workforce ageing transitioning policies and initiatives must take into account our geographic workforce diversity and gender balance in the workforce. Andrew’s presentation is below.

Demography North

Monday, 10 April 2017

Boosting population growth in the Northern Territory

Boosting population growth in the Northern Territory

Dr Tom Wilson


In late 2016 and early 2017 the Northern Territory Government hosted a number of economic summits in order to help formulate a long-term economic development plan for the Territory. Recently it released for comment a draft Economic Development Framework document containing a wide range of potential economic strategies. Population is mentioned several times in the draft framework, but I argue that it should be given greater prominence and the development framework be adapted to become a combined economic and population development policy.

Population growth is integral to growing the Territory’s economy. A larger population means more workers, and more consumers. Currently the Territory is home to just 1% of Australia’s resident population, and population growth for the last few years has been well below the national average. Low population growth affects demand for all those industries providing goods and services to the local population, and saps business confidence. As the Territory loses national population share, it loses share of the GST distribution (which may reduce the size of the public service, a major employer) and risks losing one of its two seats in the House of Representatives.

Since 2013 population growth has been sustained by natural change (births minus deaths) and net overseas migration (immigration minus emigration). These two factors have only just offset net interstate migration losses (the result of about 14,000 people moving from the rest of Australia to the Territory each year, and about 17,000 going in the opposite direction).

It seems unlikely that the Territory will experience large net gains of people from the major cities of the south in the future. It has a small labour market, high living costs, and a climate that does not appeal to all. Importantly, moving to the Territory takes many people a long way from established networks of family and friends.

Could governments influence fertility and mortality rates instead? Experience shows that most government attempts to raise fertility are unsuccessful, and efforts to reduce mortality through medical research and public health programs – especially for the Indigenous population – have long been underway, and are continuing.

The key to population growth in the Territory is immigration, and retaining many of those immigrants in the long run. I suggest three key ways in which the Northern Territory could boost its population through immigration.

More overseas students

First, the Territory should aim to substantially increase its number of overseas students. This is not a new idea, but it is worth reiterating. According to the Department of Education and Training, there were 307,000 international enrolments in higher education in 2016 across Australia. In the Northern Territory there were 1,400 – just under 0.5% of the national total. There are many more undertaking VET and English language courses.

There should be considerable potential to increase students from Indonesia and other neighbouring South East Asian countries. Darwin offers a welcoming multicultural environment, climate similarities with many Asian countries, and a shorter flight home. While many return home on completion of their studies, some overseas students transfer to other visas and contribute valuable skills to the Australian workforce. Instead of having a below-population share of Australia’s overseas students, the Territory could aim for a greater share, say 2%. The boost to the Territory’s economy would also be considerable.

Increased humanitarian intake

Second, the Territory could accept a greater share of the nation’s humanitarian migration intake. ABS statistics show that over the most recent five years of data there were about 10,000 immigrants per year in the “Special eligibility and humanitarian” category nationally, but an average of only about 60 for the Territory. If the Territory were to aim for an above-population share of Australia’s humanitarian intake, such as 2%, the absolute numbers would still be quite small but not insignificant relative to the Territory’s recent population growth.

Offer a new home to Pacific islanders facing inundation

Third, the Territory and Commonwealth governments could agree to create a special regional migration scheme to offer a new home for Pacific islanders whose homelands are being affected by rising sea levels. Countries such as the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tonga, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Cook Islands are particularly vulnerable to sea level rises according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The scheme would have to be restricted to the Territory only to be successful. If immigration of entire extended families occurred, the presence of family networks might reduce the rate of subsequent onwards interstate migration to other parts of Australia.

Doubtless there would legal, political and practical obstacles to navigate for this migration scheme to be implemented. And it would probably begin as a small-scale trial. But it potentially offers a significant increase to the Territory’s population with resulting benefits for the economy. At the same time Australia, and the Northern Territory, would be making an important contribution as a decent global citizen.

Demography North

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Territory Population Update

Dr Tom Wilson


Population figures just published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the total Estimated Resident Population of the Northern Territory reached 245,657 at the end of September 2016, an increase of 812 over one year earlier. This represents a growth rate of 0.3%. The population of 245,657 gives the Territory a 1.0% share of the national population of 24,220,192.

The graph below illustrates how the Territory’s population has changed over the last few years. Following strong increases in 2012 and early 2013, population growth has been limited over the most recent years.

Note: Population statistics are for the end of each month shown
Source: ABS

The bar chart below shows how the Territory’s population growth rate over the year to 30th September 2016 compares with that of the other States and Territories. Relative to other jurisdictions, the Territory’s population growth rate is quite low.

Source: ABS

What factors are driving population change in the Territory?

Population change in the Territory is the result of several demographic processes. These are:

  1. births
  2. deaths
  3. in-migration from interstate
  4. out-migration to interstate
  5. immigration from overseas
  6. emigration to overseas.

These six factors are often summarised as:

  • natural change (births minus deaths)
  • net interstate migration (in-migration from interstate minus out-migration to interstate)
  • net overseas migration (immigration minus emigration).

The diagram below shows how these factors of population change affected population growth over the year to 30th September 2016. Processes which remove people from the Territory are shown in red; those which add people to the population are shown in green.

  • Over the year to 30th September 2016 there were 3,950 births and 1,090 deaths to Territory residents, giving natural change of 2,860.
  • There were an estimated 14,651 in-migration moves to the Territory from interstate, while there were 17,455 out-migrations to other parts of Australia. Net interstate migration was -2,804.
  • The Territory’s population experienced immigration of 5,641 from overseas, while emigration to other countries was 4,885. Net overseas migration was 756.
  • Natural change, plus net interstate migration, plus net overseas migration equals total population change, which was 812.
  • Although overall population change was modest, the churn of population (numbers of people being added and removed from the population) was substantial. This is a long-established characteristic of the Territory’s demography.

Factors affecting population change in the Territory over the year ending 30th September 2016

Source: calculated from ABS data

Factors affecting population change in recent years

Much of the volatility in the Territory’s population growth over the years is due to fluctuations in migration, which in part reflects fluctuations in the Territory’s economy. The graph below shows how natural change, net interstate migration, and net overseas migration have varied on a quarterly basis in recent years. The slow growth of the Territory’s population over the last few years is due to net interstate migration losses and lower levels of net overseas migration.

Note: Periods are quarters of the year; e.g. “Qtr 1 2016” refers to the first quarter of 2016
Source: ABS


Dr Tom Wilson, Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University.

Data sources

All data are derived from the Australian Bureau of Statistics bulletin Australian Demographic Statistics (released quarterly and containing data up to a date six months prior to publication) and the online data service ABS.Stat. Be aware that these statistics are estimates, not precise values.

Interested in finding out more about the Territory’s population?

See the webpage of the Demography & Growth Planning team at the Northern Institute, and our blog, demographyNorth.

Demography North

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Introduction to Demography - one day course

What the course is about

This course provides a gentle introduction to demography – the study of population – with a particular emphasis on understanding Australian demographic change. No prior knowledge of demography is assumed, and the emphasis of the course is on demographic ideas and trends rather than statistics.

The course will tackle questions such as:
How much population ageing is occurring in Australia, and should we be worried?
What demographic factors are causing state and territory population growth?
Is life expectancy still increasing?
How does population affect political representation in Australia?
What demographic changes are occurring in our inner cities?
Are household sizes increasing?
What is the future of Australia’s population?
Where can I find demographic data?

Who the course is for

The course has been designed for analysts, planners, policy officers, managers, and postgraduate students who would find a basic knowledge of demography useful in their work. It should also be of value to others with an interest in how and why Australia’s population is changing.


Date:             Friday 5th May 2017, 10:00 am – 4:30 pm.
Venue:          Savannah Room, Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University. 
                     The room is on level 2 in building Yellow no. 1. 
                     Both paid and free parking is available nearby – see the campus map.
Presenters:    Dr Tom Wilson and Mr Huw Brokensha.
Cost:             $599 per person including GST, or $499 including GST for full-time students.
Catering:      Morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea are provided.
Materials:     Participants receive a folder of course notes and a certificate of attendance.

Demography North

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Heading north, staying north?

The increasing importance of international migrants to northern and remote Australia

Dr Andrew Taylor

Demography North researcher Dr Andrew Taylor presented on the increasing importance of international migrants to northern and remote Australia at the Western Regional Science Association conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico last month. 

Dr Taylor meets in Santa Fe with our long-term colleagues Klaus Geog Hansen, Acting Director of the Department of Economic Planning in the Greenland Government’s Ministry of Finance, and Rasmus Ole Rasmussen from the Nordic Centre for Spatial Research (NORDREGIO, but soon to be with South Greenland Municipality of Kujalleq)

There are many similarities to parts of the Territory in the painted desert areas including the desert landscape interspersed with many small American Indian communities

Demography North

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Demography North are excited to introduce a new population projections product

RePPP (Regional Population Projection Program)

Dr Tom Wilson

 RePPP (Regional Population Projection Program) is an Excel-based program which produces subnational population projections using a state-of-the-art cohort-component model. It generates projections by sex and five year age group for between 2 and 50 subnational regions over a projection horizon of between 5 and 50 years. The program is suitable for regions varying in size from SA2 areas to States and Territories. Click here for full details including user guide and software requirements. 

Key features
  • projects populations by sex and five year age group up to age 85+
  • handles between 2 and 50 subnational regions
  • region size can vary from SA2 areas to States / Territories
  • projection horizon of between 5 and 50 years
  • easy to use Excel interface
  • state-of-the-art multi-bi-regional cohort-component projection model
  • low input data requirements compared to standard multiregional models
  • separation of ‘headline’ projection assumptions (e.g. TFR, life expectancy at birth) from age profiles to facilitate easier assumption-setting and scenario creation
  • option to constrain age-sex projections to independent population totals
  • fast run time
  • validation routine to check the validity of input data
  • separate Excel output files containing various tables and graphs for each region
  • several derived projection variables output (median age, % population by broad age group, population growth rates, components of change, population growth index, sex ratios by age)
  • example input data and projections supplied
  • User Guide with step-by-step instructions
  • assistance with preparing data inputs available on request

Demography North