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Below is a snapshot of Australia’s population, extracted from the Census 2021: Numbers that matter report – you can read more about the report and its authors below this story, as well as explore the other core themes covered by the report.

Every five years there’s great excitement about what the latest Australian Census will say about our nation. It’s invaluable information.  It is a snapshot in time that provides us with important data points; but insights can only be drawn when that data is mixed with the experiences of people closely in touch with our communities.

The Census provides us with the data that fuels our questions. It is incumbent on us as social sector leaders to design the answers.  Read more about the lived experiences and voices of community in the full Census 2021: Numbers that matter report.  Delivered by Perpetual Philanthropy and Not-for-profit in conjunction with Seer Data & Analytics.

Australia in snapshot

The 2021 Census counted nearly 25.5 million people in Australia, excluding overseas visitors, on Census night – an increase of over two million people or 8.6%, since the 2016 Census.  The population who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander increased by 25% from 2016 to 812,000 people in 2021.

  • We can see that Australia is a nation with a population that is ageing, and the data suggests that as we age our mental health burdens grow.
    > How do we invest to build a nation whose people age with joy, connection and dignity?
  • The Australian dream of owning a home continues to put an incredible financial burden on young families.
    > How do we tackle housing affordability and keep that dream within reach of all?
  • Today, women are carrying greater levels of responsibility for unpaid caring and domestic duties while our gender scorecard goes backwards.
    > How do we chase a more equal society for women and girls?

These are just some of the challenges the Census puts to us. We must rise to meet the challenges of our times. We feel positive about the sector stepping up to that challenge because we have more tools to use – like the data in the report and available on the Seer platform. And we have the insight and judgement and sheer hard work of people like the civil society leaders who’ve contributed to this paper.

They give us hope.

Population growth by State 2006 – 2021

Australia's population growth - map.

Ageing population

Australia’s retirement age population (aged 65+ years) has grown by 65.56% from 2,644,369 in 2006 to 4,378,092 in 2021. Between the 2016 and 2021 Census counts, the retirement age population increased from 15.71% of the total population to 17.22% of the total population in 2021.

Income and gender pay gap

The number of households reporting Total Household Income above $4,000 per week more than doubled (increased 103.35%) from 566,811 households in 2016 to 1,152,627 households in 2021. Men are significantly more represented in all personal weekly income brackets above $1,000 per week. For the highest income bracket of $3,500 or more 73% are men and only 27% are women.

Increasing living costs

The number of mortgages with monthly repayments greater than $5,000 increased 60.92% from 81,947 in 2016 to 131,873 in 2021. In the 12 months since the 2021 Census, all five household types reflected in the ABS Living Cost Indexes have risen by between 4.6% and 5.2%. Age pensioner households had the highest annual increase with the rising cost of Transport the main contributor from Jun Qtr 2021 to Jun Qtr 2022.

Relationship status

  • The number of people never married increased 43.66% from 5,278,608 in 2006 to 7,583,392 in 2021.
  • The number of people divorced increased 40.17% from 1,306,915 in 2006 to 1,831,952 in 2021.
  • The number of people in de facto marriages increased 74.47% from 1,242,792 in 2006 to 2,168,347 in 2021.
  • LGBTQI+ communities were not reflected in relationship status despite advocacy and campaigning.
  • The number of same-sex couples in Australia increased 67.68% from 46,770 in 2016 to 78,425 in 2021.

Health & Caring

More than 1 in 10 Australians between the age of 15 and 54 reported suffering a long term mental health condition (including depression or anxiety).

More than 1 in 5 females between the age of 15 and 44 report suffering from one or more long-term health conditions.

Around one in eight (12.6%) Baby Boomers are providing care for other peoples’ children, often their grandchildren. Two thirds are female (67.5%). They are also the generation most likely to volunteer and provide unpaid assistance to others.

2021 Generational population composition

2021 Generational population composition   2006 - 2021 Generational population composition

Notes on generational population change:

  • Gen Alpha has increased from 6.3% of the population in 2016 to 12% of the population in 2021
  • Gen Z has increased from 13% of the population in 2006 to 18% of the population in 2021
  • Millennials stayed consistently around 21% of the population from 2006 to 2021
  • Gen X has decreased from 21% of the population in 2006 to 19% of the population in 2021
  • Baby Boomers decreased from 28.6% of the population in 2006 to 21.6% of the population in 2021
  • Interwar has decreased from 15% of the population in 2006 to 21.6% of the population in 2021

Census 2021: Numbers that matter – Learn more

About the report and its authors

Census 2021: Numbers that matter, a strategic compendium for Australia’s for-purpose leaders, boards and philanthropists, which asks and answers the big questions about how to make our society better for all.  The above story is a snapshot of the introduction only, with an additional seven core themes curated in the report, where experts from Perpetual and other social sector organisations reflect on some of the big issues facing our communities, by exploring a series of data insights drawn largely (but not completely) from the 2021 Census.

About Perpetual

Perpetual’s Philanthropy and Not-for-Profit team is one of Australia’s largest advisory teams working with philanthropic individuals, families and for-purpose organisations, helping them have an impact with their giving, investments and communities. For not-for-profits they provide governance, investment management and spending policy advice. They work with philanthropists to develop their giving strategies, set up the most appropriate giving approach for their circumstances and help them assess, choose and support the organisations and causes that matter to them. They work to bring these two groups together and to support them with thought leadership and analysis that helps them achieve more for their communities.

Report Authors

Caitriona Fay, Managing Partner, Community and Social Investment, Perpetual Private
Jane Magor, National Manager, Philanthropy & Non Profit Services, Perpetual Private

Get in touch with the Perpetual and Seer Data & Analytics team with any feedback or questions:

The next steps

EXPLORE Census 2021 data assets, including insights, an interactive dashboard, and new insight builder tool coming soon.

READ the full report including on the ground insights behind the numbers contributed by community sector leaders.

WATCH Census 2021: Numbers that matter information session recording, where report authors expand on the topics in the report.