LIBS’ STATE POPULATION PLEDGE DOESN’T ADD UP
Hodgman 650,000 target way off without plan, says expert
DRASTIC action is needed to put Tasmania on course to meet a key election promise of Will Hodgman’s Liberals – a 650,000 population by 2050.
Researchers say a plan is needed urgently to address predictions Tasmania’s population will rise only slightly before beginning a further decline in 2047.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics projects a population peak of 565,700 in 2061.
That’s nearly 100,000 fewer than the Hodgman target, to be reached a decade earlier.
“The Government needs to proactively influence and change past trends,” demographic consultant Lisa Denny said.
Ms Denny says the present population mix is wrong because there are not enough child-producing adults between the ages of 20 and 40.
An influx of retiring babyboomers on the hunt for cheaper housing and a Tasmanian lifestyle was likely to accelerate the state’s ageing population.
“We’re at risk in the short term of actually not being able to provide the lifestyle which Tasmanians are now used to,” Ms Denny said.
“We’re seeing that now in our delivery of health, and it’s only going to get worse if we don’t do something about altering our age structure.”
Research by the Sunday Tasmanian last month found that over the past five years, Tasmania had gained more than 2000 residents aged from 50 and 64 but lost more than 6000 aged 20 to 34 to interstate migration.
Tasmania’s population increased by a sluggish 0.3 per cent – or 1541 people – to 513,955 in the year to December 2013, the lowest rate in the country and well below the national increase of 1.73 per cent.
Ms Denny said a doubling of the growth rate to 0.6 per cent was needed to reach the Government’s target, and policy moves in the next five years would be crucial.
Population researcher Amina Keygan said net gains of about 2500 interstate migrants a year, achieved during the boom years of 2004-05, would help improve the mix.
“While Tasmanian women and couples are still having relatively large families, there are fewer of them to have children,” Ms Keygan said.
The State Budget due later this month is expected to in- clude $500,000 to bolster skilled migration.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch chief economist Saul Eslake said that strategy was good in principle but migrants needed compelling reasons to move to Tasmania.
“They aren’t going to come or they won’t stay if there aren’t rewarding jobs,” he said.
The State Government said its new Department of State Growth was developing population and skilled migration plans.