Australia was a colony of Great Britain until it federated to become the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. In the decades since, its agricultural and manufacturing industries have rapidly developed, making it internationally competitive and home to one of the fastest growing regions of the world economy. In spite of this, many Australians cite inflation and a high cost of living as one of the top issues facing the nation (Ipsos).
Australia is the world’s smallest continent but its sixth-largest country. It is home to flora and fauna found nowhere else on the globe and claims 10% of the world’s biodiversity. Its Great Barrier Reef, off the northeastern coast, is the largest coral reef in the world.
Environmental issues are a long-term concern of Australia, as it is the driest inhabited continent in the world, which makes it particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Concerns include floods, droughts, and bushfires. Also, its famous Great Barrier Reef is threatened by increased shipping, water temperature changes, and its popularity as a tourist destination.
Australia is a part of the Commonwealth of Nations (formerly the British Commonwealth). Thus, they honor Queen Elizabeth II as chief of state. Prime Minister Tony Abbott is currently the head of Australia’s parliamentary government.
Australia’s population is over 22.5 million people, with a growth rate of 1.09%. According to July 2014 estimates, 13.3% of the population is youth aged 15-24. There are 101 males for every 100 females in the population. The population is concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts, with over 89% of the total population living in urban areas such as the capital Sydney.
The aging population of Australia is a growing concern as its population growth rate has fallen below the replacement level due to both lower birth rates and higher life expectancy. Estimates suggest that by 2040, the proportion of the population over 65 years of age will increase to about 25%, while the growth rate of the traditional workforce age will slow to almost zero.
Ethnically, about 92% of the population is white, 7% is Asian and the remaining 1% is of aboriginal descent. English is the predominate language (almost 77% of the population), but there are other language such as Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Italian, Arabic, and Greek. Almost 30% of the population identifies as Protestant and 25% as Catholic. A little over 22% of the population claims no religion.
A 2013 survey by the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC) reports issues of top concern to Australian youth age 17-24. The top five youth issues were housing affordability and availability, youth unemployment, high cost of tertiary education, improving the quality of primary and secondary education, and binge drinking and alcohol fueled violence (Australia’s Youth Matters, Oct. 2013, AYAC, p. 2). The top five broader community issues listed by the respondents were improving health care and disability/mental health access, government spending, marriage equality, immigration policy, economic growth & development, and gender equality (Australia’s Youth Matters, Oct. 2013, AYAC, p. 2).
The survey revealed that while over 8 in 10 young people felt that achieving career success and being financially independent were highly important, only around 6 in 10 of young people who highly valued these aspirations felt that they would be achievable At the same time, the issue of greatest personal concern for young people in 2014 was coping with stress, with more than one in three respondents expressing high levels of concern, highlighting the immense pressure young Australians are facing in their final years of school. (Youth Survey 2014 Highlights)
While the majority of young people are optimistic about the future and aspire to achieve the jobs, houses and families that they have witnessed in earlier generations, their confidence has ebbed. Many young people feel under pressure. Young people recognise the economic and financial challenges facing Australia, and rate these amongst their most serious concerns. They know getting work is important, but two in five young people also question whether they’ll have a successful career. (Mission Australia, 2014, Youth Survey Report, “Policy Implications,” p. 4)
The report continues to justify this youth concern. According to Mission Australia, the national labor market continues to put the young generation at risk of being unemployed or underemployed (2014 Youth Survey Report, p. 4). Housing is also a continuing issue, as house prices continue to increase, making home ownership increasingly unaffordable for young Australians: 60% of first-time home buyers pay more than 30% of their income on housing, and 17% pay more than 50% of their income (2014 Youth Survey Report, p. 6). These concerns will continually need to be addressed in order to support Australia’s youth and young adult population.
Population: 22,507,617 (July 2014 estimate)
0-14 years: 18%
15-24 years: 13.3%
25-54 years: 41.8%
55-64 years: 11.8%
65 years and over: 15.1%
Male to Female ratio: 101 males per 100 females
Birth Rate: 12.19 births per 1,000 people
Average Life Expectancy at Birth: 82.07 years (79.63 years for males; 84.64 years for females)
Infant Mortality Rate: 4.43 deaths per 1,000 live births