Tasmanian Demographic Analysis SnapShot – December 2019
Prepared by Dr Lisa Denny, Institute for the Study of Social Change, University of Tasmania
To see all of the graphs, tables and footnotes associated with this SnapShot, please download a PDF version (220KB).
The December 2019 Tasmanian Demographic Analysis SnapShot provides an overview of natural population change – the difference between births and deaths – for Tasmania and provides a comparison with Australian states and territories where applicable. As with the inaugural SnapShot, released in October 2019, the December SnapShot draws on latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data – in this case, births, deaths and life expectancy data.
- Tasmania’s Vital Index, an indicator of demographic development, has been declining for five decades, with the gap between the State and the rest of Australia widening since the early 2000s.
- In 2018, around 130 babies were born in Tasmania for every 100 deaths, compared with 199 for Australia.
- Tasmania registered slightly fewer births in 2018 compared with 2017, and considerably fewer than the 20-year average (5,547 compared with 6,119).
- Tasmania recorded the second highest Total Fertility Rate (TFR); 1.77 births per woman, down from 1.82 in 2017, and considerably lower than its peak in 2008 (2.23) and the rate considered sufficient enough to ‘replace the population’; 2.1 births per woman.
- The 2018 TFR was considerably lower than that used in the assumptions for the Tasmanian Department of Treasury and Finance’s population projections.
- The number of births in Tasmania is likely to continue to fall, due to both the declining TFR and also the contraction of the proportion and number of women of reproductive age.
- The number of registered deaths in Tasmania and the State’s crude death rate (CDR) have been steadily increasing up to 2018, as expected with an ageing population.
- Tasmania has the lowest life-expectancy in Australia (except the Northern Territory).
- In 2016-2018, life expectancy at birth for Tasmania was 79.3 years for males and 83.2 years for females compared with the national average of 80.7 years for males and 84.9 years for females.
- For Tasmania, the median age at death was younger than the national average; 78.7 years for males and 83.5 years for females, compared with 79.1 and 84.9 respectively.
- Deaths in Tasmania are likely to continue to increase given the State’s ageing population.
- Eventually, Tasmania’s Vital Index will fall to less than one birth per death (i.e. natural decline will occur). This is projected to occur from the late 2020s.
- If the TFR continues to fall and the proportion of women of reproductive age continues to contract, the point of natural decline may occur earlier.
The Vital Index is an indicator of demographic development and the ability of a population to replace itself into the future, in the absence of migration. The Vital Index is measured as the ratio of births to deaths. In Tasmania, the Vital Index has been declining for the past four decades. In the late 1970s and early 1980s Tasmania’s Vital Index was similar to that of Australia’s, hovering at around 2 births for every death.
That is, the population was almost able to replace itself from natural increase. Since then, Tasmania’s Vital Index has been declining at a greater rate than Australia’s, with the gap widening considerably more since early in the 21st Century.
While Australia’s Vital Index has returned to almost 2 births per death, Tasmania’s has dropped to 1.3, or 130 births for every 100 deaths, slightly higher than the low of 117 in 2017, due to a reduction in the number of registered deaths in 2018.
In 2018, there were 315,147 births registered in Australia, the highest number recorded (6005 more than in 2017). As with 2017, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) was 1.74 births per woman, down 2.02 babies per woman compared with the most recent peak in 2008.
In the decade since 2008, all states and territories recorded a substantial decline in their respective TFRs, with all now considerably below the TFR of 2.1 births per woman, which is the rate considered sufficient to ‘replace the population’. Australia’s TFR has been below the replacement rate since 1976.
In 2018 Tasmania recorded 37 fewer births than in 2017. While Tasmania recorded the second highest TFR in the nation; 1.77 births per woman, it was down from 1.82 in 2017, and its 20-year peak of 2.23 in 2008. See Figure 2. Three other states; Victoria, Western Australia and the ACT also recorded a decline in the number of children born, whereas all states recorded a lower TFR.
In recent decades, the average age of mothers has been increasing. Women aged 30-34 years had the highest fertility rates in all states and territories in 2018 with the median age of mothers in Australia being 31.4 years. Conversely, the teenage fertility rate declined, along with those aged 20 to 29 years.
This trend is also evident in Tasmania; the number of children being born to women aged 15 to 29 is lower than the 20-year average for all age groups 15 to 29 years, while the number being born to women aged 30 to 44 years is slightly higher than the 20-year average. See Figure 3. Despite this, Tasmania’s age-specific fertility rate for 30 to 34-year-old women is lower than the 20-year average.
Tasmania had the second youngest median age of mothers (30.2 years) behind the Northern Territory and the youngest median age of fathers (32.1 years). Despite the younger average age of mothers in Tasmania, the age-specific fertility rates for the 5-year age groups aged 15 to 29 years is considerably lower than the 20-year average, which is not offset by marginally higher age-specific fertility rates for those aged 35 to 49 years. See Figure 4. This means that any potential TFR ‘catch-up’ from older age groups is not likely.
In addition to a falling TFR, the declining number of births in Tasmania can also be attributed to the declining proportion (and number) of the female population of child-bearing age (15 to 49 years). That is, there are fewer women in Tasmania of reproductive age to actually have children. Even if the TFR stabilised, there would still be fewer births as the cohort of reproductive women contracts further.
In 2018 Australia experienced a 1.5 per cent decrease in the number of deaths registered compared with 2017. Tasmania also recorded a 2.7 per cent decrease, after a large increase in registered deaths in 2016.
The crude death rate (CDR) in Australia decreased to 6.3 deaths per 1,000 people from 6.5 in the previous year, while the standardised death rate (SDR) decreased to 5.1 deaths per 1,000 from 5.3 in the previous year. Over the past ten years, SDRs declined in all states and territories, with Tasmania recording the second highest SDR (5.6), behind the Northern Territory.
The number of deaths in Tasmania increased steadily to 2018, as expected with an ageing population. As a result, over the past 20 years Tasmania’s CDR has also been increasing, while its SDR has been decreasing, reflecting the relatively older population age structure in Tasmania, compared with the Australian population age structure. See Figure 5.
For Australia, the median age at death was 78.9 years for males and 84.8 years for females. Over the past ten years, median age at death has increased by 1.0 years for males and 0.9 years for females at the national level. Even so, while there has been no change in median age at death for males since 2015, the median age at death for females decreased slightly from 85.0 years to 84.8 years, the same median age at death as in 2014. For Tasmania, the median age at death was younger than the national average; 78.7 years for males and 83.5 years for females.
Life expectancy at birth estimates represent the average number of years that a newborn baby could expect to live, assuming current age-specific death rates are experienced through his/her lifetime.
For Australia, in 2016-2018, life expectancy at birth was 80.7 years for males and 84.9 years for females. In recent years, life expectancy for males has improved at a faster rate than that for women. In the past 10 years, life expectancy has increased by 1.5 years for males and 1.2 years for females.
For Tasmania, life-expectancy is much lower than the national average and is the lowest of all States and Territories (excepting the Northern Territory). In 2016-2018, life expectancy at birth for Tasmania was 79.3 years for males and 83.2 years for females. Over the past 10 years, male life expectancy increased 1.6 years, slightly more than the national average, while females increased 0.9 years, slightly less than the national average.
Treasury, and the ABS, project that the population of Tasmania will enter natural decline by the late 2020s, as a result of more deaths than births. This will occur for a number of reasons; the rapidly ageing population, the continued decline in the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) below population replacement rate and also the contraction of the proportion and size of the reproductive cohort (women aged 15 to 49 years).
In addition, Tasmania’s TFR is considerably lower than the rate used in the Tasmanian Department of Treasury and Finance’s (Treasury) population projections assumptions. Under the high series, Treasury assumes a TFR of 1.96 increasing to 2.1 by 2028. Under the medium series, Treasury assumes a constant rate of 1.96 babies per woman and under the low series, assumes the rate will decrease from 1.96 in 2017 to 1.76 per woman by 2028. Given that the TFR for Tasmania in 2018 is already similar to the rate used by Treasury for the low series from 2028, caution should be applied when using the Treasury projections of young people in Tasmania to 2050.
Should the TFR remain considerably below the assumed rates in the Treasury projections, it is likely that the Vital Index will dip below 1 birth per death prior to the late 2020s and that over the longer term, the Tasmanian population will track closer to the low series, in the absence of substantially increased migration.