Australian Census: 15 gems for business

By Myriam Robin 

The census is important to more than demographers and policy-makers. It’s a snapshot of where we are as a nation, one which businesses can dip into for insight into their workforce and customers. Conducted every five years, now is the moment to explore it before its currency starts to wane.
Here are 15 important points your business needs to know.
1) We’re living longer: The median age in Australia was 37 years, steady from 2006. However, the number of Australians aged 85 or older was 1.9%, up from 1.6%.
2) And there’s a baby boom: Fertility is up, which means there are a lot of babies and toddlers around. Fertility peaked in 2008 at 1.96 babies per women, an increase linked to catch-up fertility following many women delaying children in previous years. There were 1.4 million Australians aged 0-4 years, but only 1.3 million aged 5-9 years.
3) Stagnant Sydney, booming Melbourne: In 20 years Melbourne could overtake stagnant Sydney as Australia’s largest city. The Victorian capital is adding 70,000 new residents a year. This increase is largely due to immigrants choosing to settle in Victoria. But, of course, even Melbourne’s growth pales in comparison to Western Australia, whose population swelled 14% in five years. The East Pilbara expanded 83% between 2006 and 2011.
4) Fewer of us are getting married: But these growing families are less likely to be traditionally “nuclear”. The number of Australians who answered the census question by saying they had never married has increased by 13.2% in the past five years. One glimmer of hope for the wedding and event industry are the country’s 32,377 same-sex de facto couples, some of whom could tie the knot if same-sex marriage is legalised.
5) We’re multilingual: Nearly one in five (19%) of us speak a language other than English at home. The most common languages were Mandarin (spoken at home by 1.7% of the population), Italian (1.5%), Arabic (1.4%), Cantonese (1.3%) and Greek (also on 1.3%).
6) We’re migrants: One in four (24.6%) of Australia’s population is born overseas.
7) More of us are living together: For the first time, the census recorded an increase in the number of people per home (2.63 people per dwelling, up from 2.61 last census).
8) More of us are living in apartments: Three quarters of us (75.6%) still live in detached housing, but that’s down 1% since the 2006 census.
9) More of us are under mortgage stress: “Mortgage stress”, generally defined as what happens if you’re paying more than 30% of your income to your mortgage, affected 9.9% of households. This is up from 8.4% in 2006. The average household mortgage payment has increased 38%, or $500, between 2006 and 2011, from $1,300 to $1,800 a month.
10) Renters aren’t doing much better: The median household rent jumped from $466 to $577.
11) Most of us don’t own our home outright: In 2006, 34% owned our own home entirely, meaning we’d paid off our mortgage and were reaping the capital gains. This figure has since dropped to 32%.
12) Not as many people may watch pay-TV as you think: In a revelation no doubt likely to prompt some awkward conversations in Foxtel sales offices, census data suggests only 26% of Australian households use pay-TV. Pay-TV operators usually put the figure at 30%.
14) We like school: Though those under 15 don’t get a choice about attending an educational institution, a staggering number of adults are engaged in some form of education. Nearly one in three (30.2%) of people in Australia were in some kind of educational institute. There were more people in a tertiary or technical institution than there were in high school (21.6% compared to 20.5%).
15) We’re spending less time cooking and cleaning: More of us are spending the absolute minimum amount of time on domestic chores, with 22.4% of us doing five or less hours of household work a week.