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Australia does not have a population policy or strategy despite suggestions to the effect that it should. Population policies elsewhere focus on births and migration. As part of post-World War II reconstruction, Australia adopted a target population growth rate of 2 % per annum. Mass immigration remains a defining feature of the political landscape, with little cognisancegiven to the engineering, IT, and environmental sustainability implications of our increasing population.


  • Investigate previous attempts to define the optimal population, and ideal growth rate thereof, in Australia.
  • Compare these with policy measures enacted in other countries and assess the desirability of their application in Australia.
  • Assess the sustainability implications of an increasing population from the perspective of one of the following key issues: demand for water, demand for energy, traffic congestion, or demand for higher education.

Historical Population Growth Rate of Australia

Population, around the world, is a great concern for the governments as it is increasing exponentially. A population policy is a set of measures taken by the government which controls the way the population changes in the country. The government using the population measures can control the migration activities, birth control and many more. Australia is also suffering from the problems of population. The indigenous growth rate of the country coupled with the high migration into Australia has increased its population a lot since the last decade. Therefore the country is facing different problems related to the demand for energy, water, education and many more. Although in the past few of the actions were taken by the government to control and estimate the population of the country, they lacked the sustainability quotient leading to major failures. This study talks about the previous population policies and the impacts of increasing population on the energy demand of the country along with the other things.

Australia finished the World War II with the population of around 8 million in the year 1945. Since then the population of the country has increased at the rate of more than 2% each year. As per the figures of the year 2017, the population of Australia now is around 24 million. The huge size of Australia has also created a perception in many of the neighboring countries of Australia that the capacity of the country to accept international refugees and migration is huge (Neumann, Vafeidis, Zimmermann, & Nicholls, 2015). However, it needs to be noted that, the habitable area of the country is limited and hence the increasing population of the country puts immense pressure on the overall capacity.

Australia never had any explicit population policy like most of the other developed nation of the world. Romano & Fletcher (2018) stated that the developed countries such as the USA and European countries do not have an explicit migration policy and hence allows anyone to migrate in their country in a legal way. However, given the limited resources of the country, it had estimated the optimum rate for the population growth after the end of the World War II. However, Wilson (2015) criticised that, these approaches by the government to arrive at a specified growth rate is vague and inadequate. During the year 2003-2004, the government of Australia becomes a bit more serious regarding the population policy measures as the fertility rate was reducing. The fertility rate of Australia during that time was around 1.71births per woman which was below the world average rate. Following that, the Australian government introduced a number of policies targeting women and children. These included a baby bonus worth 5000 Australian dollars. Apart from that, 65% of the baby care subsidy was covered by the grants of the government. Zahid, Robinson & Kelly (2016) highlighted that this policy impacted positively on the family income level of many especially family lying in the lower segment.

Australia's Lack of Explicit Population Policy

Figure 1: The population growth rate of Australia over the years

(Source: Coale, & Hoover, 2015)

Apart from the fertility rate, the components of the population policy also include the migration policy. According to Hugo, Tan, Feist & Harris (2015), migration accounts for a large share of influx into the country. Just after the end of the world war, Australia was the best economic performer in the Oceania region. As a result, people from the nearby areas such as New Zealand, Papua New Guinea started to come to Australia for a better lifestyle. Thus, the immigration has been a concern for the government since the World War II. The previous attempts of the Australian government’s policy were aimed mainly to increased diversity in the population of Australia. Ambrey, Byrne, Matthews, Portanger, Baker, Lo & Davison (2016) stated that, over the years, the migration policies of the country had changed a lot of time to become what it is now.

Figure 2: migration as a percentage of the population

(Source: Hugo et al. 2015)

It is important to note that, till the year 1970, the government did not feel the pressure from increasing population in Australia. After 1970, pressure on the energy demand led the government to change the immigration policies yet again in order to control the population growth rate of the country. The government changed the immigration policies and points were provided to the immigrants based on their skill sets. This scoring method allowed the government to screen out a few of the applicants in order to deal with population pressure. Gray & Tesfaghiorghis (2018) added that other preferences were also added to further reduce the number of immigrant into the country. These included the age of the applicant, English speaking ability and many more.  However, the government did not change the permanent migration status for the dependent family members. Apart from that, another concern of the Australian government was the international and humanitarian migrations. These also include the citizens of New Zealand who has the right to become a part of the labor force in Australia (Ackerman, Pratt, Gorelik & Liew, 2018). Andrello, Jacobi, Manel, Thuiller & Mouillot (2015) stated that this scheme of the government had the objective to reduce the population pressure on the country.  

The previous policies of the government of Australia have been vague to the due to the fact that the country never faced any population pressure. The immigration laws of the country were also very lenient till 2009 which allowed people from various backgrounds to get settled in Australia. However, with the expansion of the economy it has experienced pressure that has persuaded the government to make the immigration policies a bit stringent. Despite the fact, that population is increasing, it has not yet implemented any population policy like most of the other developed nation of the world on the humanitarian ground.

Population Control Measures in the Past

Compared to Australia, there are other countries in the world that face more population pressure. The developing economies such as China and India are to name a few. The economy of these countries is not as powerful as Australia. There are few of the countries for which population has been a problem over the years, these include India and China. China has a stringent population policy to keep the growth rate under control. In the year 1979, the government of China implemented the policy of one child which significantly reduced the number of a child per household. However, United nation criticised this policy due to the fact that, the policy also came with a monetary punishment for exceeding the number of children per woman. Shahbaz, Bhattacharya & Ahmed (2015) highlighted that the major human rights violation was done from the side of the government as the number of illegal pregnancy and abortion increased in the country. However, with the constant pressure from the united nation, China revoked the policy implication and replaced it with a notification which said, the government will only take responsibility for a single child per woman. For example, the government official having two children only got the insurance cover for the elder child from the government.

India is also facing the same problem in terms of population as the birth rate in India is increasing steadily despite the policies implemented by the government to curb it. Gentle (2015) stated that high birth rate is favourable for the economy, however, for the resource of the country, a high birth rate that of India can be problematic. The government of India has implemented a policy that disqualifies a person from holding any official post if the number of children is more than two. Apart from that, the government also disqualifies the person from getting advantages of the other public packages. Connell & McManus (2016) noted that one of the state government of India has implemented a policy that pays the couple $150 US dollars to postpone their delivery by 2 years. However, the birth rate in Australia is not as high as India and hence, policies like this will not make sense. Nevertheless, the government can undertake policies to increase awareness among the citizen of the country regarding increasing population and its impact on the demand for basic necessities and energies in the Australian economy (Williams, Mooney, Sisson & Marlon, 2015). However, given a high pressure from the immigration into Australia, and the fact that, the habitable land is limited, this birth rate of Australia is moderate and hence policies like that of India’s can be implemented to control the optimum birth rate of the country.

Comparison with Other Countries' Population Pressure Situations

Apart from that, developed countries such as the USA and Russia also faces problem-related to the population. The USA has a similar problem to Australia where the birth rate is low and the pressure from the immigration is very high. The government of the USA implemented the eugenics policy in the past that reduced the acceptation of migration from Asian countries. As per the reports, the government decided these races to be undesirable as per the national goals of the USA. In addition to that, the government also undertook few of the controversial policies that attracted heavy criticisms. One of them was the sterilization of the disabled population of the country (Phillips & Simon-Davies, 2016). Additionally, the government was also reported to sterilize non-desirable migrants coming from different races. However, due to the pressure of the international politics and the united nation, these policies were rejected. The policies implemented by the USA were stern and hence not applicable for Australia. The rights of the Australian citizen will be violated if the government would implement a policy as stringent as sterilising the citizens to control the population growth of the country.

Another developed economy that faces a similar problem is Russia. Russia, like Australia, has an impressive economic performance and high human development index. However, the birth rate in Russia has always been a concern for the government. As per the data of 2003, the birth rate of Russia was 1.56 per woman which was extremely compared to the other countries of the world. The government of Russia, in order to deal with this problem, came up with an interesting solution that said, the couple whose baby will get delivered on a specific day of the year, will receive gifts starting from a cash bonus to car. Roelfsema, Loder, Host & Kovacs (2018) stated that this worked for Russia and now the birth rate has reached 1.75 per woman which still better than what it was a decade ago. Awareness campaign from the side of the government has also been done to educate the people of Russia regarding the ill effects of the low younger population in the country. Russia has one of the effective ways to increase the birth rate and the Australian government can implement these strategies in Australia to control a healthy birth rate for the economy. While stringent policies like that of the USA can be problematic, lenient policies like Russia can benefit the economy of Australia.

Demand for energy is one of the basic demands for the human race. Energy is used in almost all the activities of the humans. Therefore, the demand for the energy is most vulnerable to increasing population. The high demand for energy is problematic as a source of energy for each of the country is limited. Increasing population due to the high rate of migration in the case of Australia is also putting pressure on the demand for energy. Walter, Chandrasekaran, Collins, Jagadeesan, Mohankumar, Alagusundaram & Srivastava (2016) stated that for one unit increase in the population the average allocation of energy for each of the population is decreasing. Although, Australia is one of the most developed countries in the world, is population is still growing contribution to the higher demand for energy.

Energy in the world is of two types based on the capability of the energy to replenish itself. These are renewable and nonrenewable energy, where renewable energy is something that can replenish itself. On the other hand, nonrenewable energy is a source of energy that is absolutely limited in the world. The example of non-renewable energy can be crude oil, minerals and many more. The impact of population increases is mostly on the nonrenewable resources. Coal still is used as one of the energy sources to produce electricity in Australia. Lindenmayer (2016) highlighted that 87% of the electric needs of the country is met by coal electricity. As the population increases, per capita need for nonrenewable energy increases putting a pressure on the reservoirs of the nonrenewable energy sources. Another important nonrenewable resource is the crude oil which is used mainly for automobiles and transportation. The increase in the population puts pressure on the demand for automobile and the means of transport. According to data, around 94% of the vehicles and the automobiles run on non renewable energies such as crude oil. The increase in demand for crude oil thus, not only increases the price but also reduces the reservoir of crude oil. In the future the demand for oil is going to increase more due to the increase in the population of Australia. Thus, the government needs to control the population of the country and invest more on alternative energy sources. This will benefit the government to source energy for high population of the country. If the government do not control the population or invest on other means of energy, the increase demand will put inflationary pressure in the economy.

Apart from that non-renewable resource and the sustainability of the renewable resources also experiences the pressure due to the increased population. For example, the most widely used nonrenewable energy is the natural gas. The natural gasses are used as compressed natural gas as a fuel in the transportation sector of the economy. The exponential demand resulting from an increased population impacts the critical extraction point of the renewable resource. Therefore, the sustainability of the natural gas in the environment reduces due to the high demand for energy which in turn is triggered by increase of the population pressure (Gillespie, Hunter, Berger & Marantelli, 2015). The natural gas in the environment has already started to drop. As per the recent study, the extraction level has been 7% closer to the critical extraction point. If the population increases the same way, the natural gas extraction will be blow the critical extraction point leading to unbalanced situation in the environment. Therefore if the population and hence the demand for energy is not regulated, the resources of the country will reduce. On the other hand, resources ensure an economical security to the country absence of which may lead to economic deterioration.

The extent is so much that it comes closer to the sustainable exploration limit. After that point, the renewable energy does not get the time to replenish it again and as a result, leads to extinction. In addition to the extraction, the higher demands for renewable and nonrenewable energies also have a chance to increase the price with the increase in population. With the higher prices, it will not be sustainable to maintain any of the activities of the country. The inflation in the market will set in and the prices of the other products in the market will also raise leading to an economic mismanagement. Apart from that, rising oil prices will also give rise to illegal operation of oil extraction in the country which will further contribute towards the extinction of the natural energy sources of the country. Therefore, the government needs to take appropriate action to control the population growth of the country.

Another aspect to this is, as the population in a limited land area increases the responsibilities of the government also increases. The number of energy production units need to be increased with the increase in the population. That not only increases the cost of operation of the local government, but that also increases the demand for the energy from the side of the government. All the administration buildings needs to be expanded in order to serve a huge number of citizen of the country, that eventually contributes to the higher demand for the energy resources (Gillespie et al. 2015). In the future, the higher demand for energy will increase the exploration level and the prices of energy. That means the average cost of living in the country will be higher. The impacts may be deeper as it can further harm the lower population from the lower segment. Consequently, the higher demand for energy can lead to inequality through the increase in the cost of living. 

Thus, increasing population is not sustainable from the perspective of the environmental stability. Apart from that, increasing population is can also put pressure on the economy of the country through the excess demand for energy. As discussed above, the direct impact of population increase would be on the demand for energy and therefore the government has to create more and more capability to supply energies to the existing citizens of the country (Lindenmayer, 2016). That would require high amount of establishment cost along with heavy maintenance and running cost. For example, when the capacity of the coal to produce electric would finish, the government has to invest money to establish nuclear power plant to meet the demand for the energy in market. As a result, the government would go in fiscal deficit, which in turn would worsen the operation and the situation of the economy. Currently, the government of Australia spends $350 million Australian dollars each year in the solar power project based in the country. With the rise in the population, the amount may increase further putting pressure on the inflation level of the economy. This in turn will increase the overall price level in the economy leading to a higher cost of living in Australia. Thus, no matter what the types of energy resource there is high chance that the cost of living in Australia is going to increase along with the inflation if the population increases the same way. 

Although, the government can attempt to make the increasing population sustainable through the supply of solar power to meet the demand, this would increase the expense of the government even more. The storage and the transportation of the solar power are much costly and hence supplying this energy as the population increases would be tough for the government to carry out. The use of solar power in transpiration can also be adopted due to the demand crunch of conventional energy sources. However, the speed of the transportation and other qualities may deteriorate leading to an inefficient daily operation of the country. Different areas of the transports sector may feel the high pressure of increase in the demand for energy.


Therefore, control over the population is important for the government of Australia. As the study in this paper says, population increase is attributed to many of the factors including birth control and the immigration into Australia. There have been a number of attempts from the side of the Australian government to control the population and estimate the optimum population growth rate of the country. However, there was no explicit population policy that the country implemented. The previous attempts mainly controlled the immigration policies of the country. The study also presents an analysis of the sustainability of energy demand relative to the increase in the population of the country. The increase in population can directly impact the demand for the nonrenewable energy sources of the country. The renewable energy sources can also come to a point of danger with the rise in demand as sustainable extraction points can be easily reached with a high increase in the population. Lastly, the increase in demand for energy may increase the price of fuels in the future that in turn can lead to inflation and economic mismanagement in Australia.


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