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The impact of COVID-19 on population ageing

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Journal Article

Wilson, T., Temple, J. & Charles-Edwards, E. (2021): Will the COVID-19 pandemic affect population ageing in Australia? Journal of Population Research.

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused extensive disruption to economies and societies across the world. In terms of demographic processes, mortality has risen in many countries, international migration and mobility has been widely curtailed, and rising unemployment and job insecurity is expected to lower fertility rates in the near future. This paper attempts to examine the possible effects of COVID-19 on Australia’s demography over the next two decades, focusing in particular on population ageing. Several population projections were prepared for the period 2019–41. We formulated three scenarios in which the pandemic has a short-lived impact of 2–3 years, a moderate impact lasting about 5 years, or a severe impact lasting up to a decade. We also created two hypothetical scenarios, one of which illustrates Australia’s demographic future in the absence of a pandemic for comparative purposes, and another which demonstrates the demographic consequences if Australia had experienced excess mortality equivalent to that recorded in the first half of 2020 in England & Wales. Our projections show that the pandemic will probably have little impact on numerical population ageing but a moderate effect on structural ageing. Had Australia experienced the high mortality observed in England & Wales there would have been 19,400 excess deaths. We caution that considerable uncertainty surrounds the future trajectory of COVID-19 and therefore the demographic responses to it. The pandemic will need to be monitored closely and projection scenarios updated accordingly.


Associate Professor Jeromey Temple, The University of Melbourne

Dr Tom Wilson, The University of Melbourne