AMP Capital economist Diana Mousina says while the census data did not reveal “anything overly surprising”, it did reinforce some trends already evident from other pieces of data.
“The data is quite lagged in the sense that it was taken last year and we’ve got data prints which have come out which are much more timely, but it paints the overall picture of the Australian economy, so it just reconfirms the trends that we’ve been seeing over the past few years,” Ms Mousina told Nest Egg.
One of the most notable trends seen in the census results is the ageing of the Australian population, with the median age of the average Australian rising to 38, up from 37 in the 2011 census.
“If we look at the numbers around the ageing population, the number of Australians aged 65 and over now makes about 17 per cent of the population, and if we look at the last census in 2011, that was closer to around 14 per cent,” Ms Mousina said.
“So even though it’s a small percentage change, these trends are still quite significant because they do move around a lot more than if you were comparing census data from back 100 or even longer than that.”
Ms Mousina said this trend is likely to continue for a few years, noting that while natural population increases – the number of births over deaths – is starting to pick up, people are living longer.
“You’re still going to have that significant proportion of the population that’s in that Baby Boomer age, so I still expect that we’ll get another increase in the number of people who are aged 65 and over,” she explained.
Healthcare businesses are likely to benefit as a result, as evidenced by the strong jobs growth the sector has seen over the past two years.
“Over the year to May 2017, healthcare and community services jobs were up by 2.4 per cent over the year, while overall employment growth was running at 2.0 per cent,” Ms Mousina said.
A second trend that was highlighted in the 2016 census results is the decline in housing affordability.
“We know from other data prints that affordability around housing has deteriorated in Australia, but more specifically in Sydney and Melbourne or in New South Wales and Victoria,” Ms Mousina said.
“But now, we can see the proportion of households that own their house outright has dropped to 31 per cent, and in 1991, in the census then, it was closer to around 41 per cent. You’ve seen those housing affordability pressures really starting to bite.”
The government’s efforts to address this erosion in affordability will have positive impacts for some Australian retirees, Ms Mousina said, with the most obvious impact being the tax benefits afforded to retirees choosing to downsize their family home.
“Although we had the strict changes to super last year, this year the government is trying to encourage retirees to downsize and there was an incentive to put proceeds of the sale of the family home back in to superannuation,” she said.
“It wouldn’t be subject to the same tax arrangements as if you were just putting that same amount of money in, so those are helpful.”
Ms Mousina predicted that the government’s efforts to curb the declining affordability of housing in Australia will prevent things getting worse in the future, but she said it will be several years before the situation improves.