Issues Magazine

Articles about Population

Why Australia Needs a Sustainable Population Policy

By Peter Howat and Melissa Stoneham

Australia urgently needs to develop a sustainable population policy. There is strong evidence that if we let our population keep growing as fast as it is doing now (about 2% a year) our quality of life in Australia is likely to decline.

Population, Planning and Perhaps Getting it Wrong

By John Minnery

An example of City of Brisbane planning in the 1940s illustrates that population projections are sometimes wildly inaccurate.

Urban planning as a profession relies heavily on estimates of future populations. Both governments and private developers may have to commit millions of dollars on the basis of these estimates.

Urban planners have to advise both governments and private developers. For example, shopping centres need to be located where they are accessible to large numbers of future shoppers; if they are built where there is expected to be a large number of people in future but the projections turn out to be wrong, the development companies may face bankruptcy.

Population Ageing

By Derryn Wilson

Population ageing presents both new challenges and opportunities for governments and communities. It is a global phenomenon, but local areas and nations are at different stages and much is to be learnt from sharing experiences.

The Double-Edged Sword of Technology

By Graham M. Turner

When questions of population growth and sustainability are debated, the silver bullet of technological progress is usually proposed or implied. But historical evidence and simulations of the future demonstrate the danger of relying on technology.

The debate about population and sustainability has typically been fraught with rather simplistic and at times conflicting arguments. Many focus on population alone. Others focus on the potential for technology to deliver sustainability. Some touch on our materialistic consumerism.

Planning for Population Growth

By Graham Bradley

Well-planned growth of Australia’s population is in the best interests of the nation.

Australia needs to continue to increase its population if we want to maintain, let alone improve, our standard of living. But gaining support from citizens concerned about clogged roads, strained services, pollution and social cohesion means governments across the country have to plan better for growth. And they have to communicate why population growth is important and how it can be accommodated.

Megatrends: Preparing for a Ripe Old Age

By Stefan Hajkowicz

How is the world ageing, and what challenges does this create? Ageing populations is one of the six global megatrends identified in CSIRO’s report Our Future World 2012.

An academic friend of mine told me that getting old isn’t a problem. You’ve only got one option. That’s to get old. But choosing where to go for your next holiday is a problem. You’ve got lots of options.

There is much truth in this observation, and I frequently recount it in my lectures on decision theory. But while old age is inevitable, as individuals and as a society, we have many options about how we age.

Why We Need to Stabilise Our Population

By Ian Lowe

Population growth is stressing our environment and causing social strains, while its claimed economic benefits are questionable. A rational assessment leads inevitably to the conclusion that we should aim to stabilise our population.

Population growth is bad for the environment. Every serious environmental problem is made worse by increasing human numbers.

Rapid population growth has been justified for its alleged economic benefits. It is now clear that we are paying a serious environmental price as well as suffering significant social costs as a result of this policy. Furthermore, it is not even clear there are even economic benefits on the other side of the ledger. A rational assessment leads to the conclusion that we should aim to stabilise our population.

State of World Population 2009: A Summary

By Gaye McDermott

The latest United Nations Population Fund Report addresses questions about women, population and climate change.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is a development agency that promotes the right of every individual to a life of health and equal opportunity and works towards reducing poverty. UNFPA champions safe pregnancies and births, human rights and gender equality.

Each year the UNFPA publishes a “State of World Population” report. The theme of the latest UNFPA report, State of World Population 2009, is “Facing a Changing World: Women, Population and Climate”. This report addresses a number of questions and suggests some answers.

Feeding the World with Grains

By Tony Fischer

The yield of grains, the source of much of the world’s food, has risen to exceed world population growth in the past 50 years, resulting in cheaper food for the world’s poor. Can this continue over the next 50 years as world population rises to just over nine billion?

Humanity has done well to increase grain production to match population growth. Until the middle of the last century, most of this growth came from opening up more arable land. Since the 1960s, however, the area of arable land has remained relatively steady while grain yields (the amount produced per unit area) have increased substantially.

Australia’s Future Population: Can We Forecast and How Should We Plan?

By Charlie Nelson

How are forecasts, targets and scenarios used to plan for population growth? Is bigger necessarily better when we look beyond GDP to measures such as life expectancy and happiness?

Healthy Mothers Make Healthy Communities

By Amelia Poxon

As Australia’s population grows, cities expand, house prices rise and transport systems struggle to keep up. But imagine if you lived in a developing country where access to basic services is already difficult.

A large family is a source of joy for many but in countries like Timor-Leste, Sri Lanka or Kenya,where parents struggle to find food and medicine to keep their children healthy, a large family may also be a challenge. In these countries, and many more, there are enormous difficulties associated with accessing nutritious food, clean water, health care and education. These challenges often make it impossible for people living in poverty to learn skills that enable them to earn a sustainable income.

Asian Population Transitions

By Graeme Hugo

Asia is currently home to four billion people and looms large in any consideration of global population.

In 2012 the federal government’s Australia in the Asian Century report described the pace and scale of change in Asia as “staggering”. The report was referring to the spectacular economic growth of countries like China, yet the transformation of the region’s population has been equally substantial. Moreover, it is very significant as both a major cause and consequence of the economic, social, political and environmental change that attracts so much attention.

Environment and Economy: Can They Co-Exist in the “Smart State”?

By Simon Baltais

We live in times where many believe we must grow to build a strong and successful economy. Is a bigger economy better, and what do we stand to lose in south-east Queensland if we continue to grow?

Family Planning: Facing the Cause and Effects of Climate Change

By Claire Maloney

Debates around solutions for climate change are often based upon reduction of greenhouse gases and other environmental measures. Marie Stopes International Australia is advocating for family planning to be considered as part of an environmental strategy to help growing communities adapt to climate change.

As the world’s population climbs to well over 6.5 billion people there has been a lot of discussion in the media in Australia, and around the globe, about the challenges that these growing populations will face in the future. Some of the fastest-growing populations are living in developing countries, and there are many effects that rapid population growth will have on these communities. Food and water shortages, impoverished living conditions, soil erosion, deforestation and lack of appropriate shelter are all negative outcomes of growing and unsustainable populations.

Can We Feed a Growing World and Sustain the Planet?

By Jonathan Foley

Increasing population and consumption are placing unprecedented demands on agriculture and natural resources across the planet, but five strategies might just let us attain a food-secure and environmentally-secure world by the middle of the century.

The scramble for natural resources reflects the fact that agriculture is going to be absolutely fundamental to the success of our civilisation. It has been so for 10,000 years, and it must continue to be so for the next 10,000 years, because one of the big challenges for the world is food security.


By Sally Woollett

Editor, Issues

An overview of what's in this edition of Issues.

“Demography is destiny,” said the then-Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, upon launching Australia’s first Intergenerational Report in 2002. The report and its successors, which are required of the Federal government every five years under the Charter of Budget Honesty Act 1998, “focus on the implications of demographic change for economic growth and assess the financial implications of continuing current policies and trends over the next four decades” (