Better health and ageing for all Australians

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework - 2010

2.11 Dependency ratio

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Why is it important?:

The dependency ratio is a demographic indicator which measures the ratio of the economically active section of the population to the economically inactive sector. There is an association between high dependency ratios (proportionately lower numbers of economically active people) and poverty is a strong determinant of poor health.

Traditionally dependency ratios are the ratio of people aged under 15 years (youth dependency) or 65 years and over (aged dependency), to people aged 15 to 64 years. Factors that impact on the usefulness of dependency ratios as a tool for policy analysis include the impact of economically active children or people aged 65 years and over, and people aged 15 to 64 years who are not economically active.

For Indigenous Australians the dependency ratio is less clear-cut as an indicator. The combined dependency ratio for Indigenous Australians is mainly influenced by the relatively high proportion of children, whereas the combined ratio for the non-Indigenous and total populations is much more strongly influenced by the relatively high proportion of older people. Therefore, it is necessary to calculate separately the youth and age dependency ratios for the Indigenous Australian population and compare these with the same ratios for other Australians. The youth dependency ratio for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander society is a measure of the burdens associated with child rearing and provision of support to dependent adolescents.

It is important to note that this measure does not take into account Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who have one non-Indigenous parent. Such cases will tend to exaggerate the Indigenous youth dependency ratio.

Findings:

In 2010, 35% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians were aged under 15 years compared with 19% of non-Indigenous Australians. People aged 65 years and over made up 3% of the Indigenous population and 14% of the non-Indigenous population. The structural differences in the two populations reflect the impact of the higher fertility experience of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and higher mortality rates which result in deaths occurring at younger ages (see measures 1.18 and 1.22). In 2010, the youth dependency ratio was estimated to be 0.57 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared with 0.27 for non-Indigenous Australians. For Indigenous Australians, this ratio has fallen from 0.63 in 2006—a statistically significant decrease. For non-Indigenous Australians the ratio was 0.28 in 2006.

In 2010, the aged dependency ratio was estimated to be 0.05 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the same as in 2006. For non-Indigenous Australians the aged dependency ratio was estimated to be 0.21 in 2010, increasing from 0.20 in 2006.

For the Indigenous Australian population, both the overall dependency ratio and the youth dependency ratio were higher in inner and outer regional areas than in either major cities or remote/very remote areas. There was little difference between the Indigenous aged dependency ratios across remoteness categories.

Implications:

The high youth dependency ratios in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population impact on the the socioeconomic circumstances of Indige­nous families and households, however, the youth de­pendency ratio is declining over time.

Health and other services for children and young people need to be adequately resourced and delivered in culturally sensitive ways due to the younger age profile of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. The younger age structure represents an opportunity to implement strategies that could lead to a sustainable improvement in the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the large cohort of children and young people ages into the future. With well designed and delivered antenatal care and early childhood programs, along with effective interventions helping young adults to adopt healthy behaviours, there is a tremendous opportunity to temper the emergence of chronic illnesses in younger people.

Figure 96 – Population profile by Indigenous status, age and sex, 2010


Figure 96 – Population profile by Indigenous status, age and sex, 2010
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS population estimates based on 2006 Census of Population and Housing
Text description of figure 96 (TXT 1KB)

Table 46 – Total and Youth and Aged Dependency Ratios, by remoteness and Indigenous status, 2006

Major cities
Inner regional
Outer regional
Remote
Very remote
Indigenous
Dependency ratio
0.66
0.75
0.72
0.65
0.62
Youth dependency ratio
0.62
0.70
0.66
0.60
0.56
Aged dependency ratio
0.05
0.05
0.05
0.05
0.06
Non-Indigenous
Dependency ratio
0.46
0.55
0.52
0.45
0.37
Youth dependency ratio
0.27
0.31
0.31
0.30
0.26
Aged dependency ratio
0.18
0.24
0.21
0.15
0.11
Source: AIHW analysis derived from ABS population estimates based on the 2006 Census of Population and Housing

Figure 97 – Total Dependency Ratios, by remoteness and Indigenous status, 2006


Figure 97 – Total Dependency Ratios, by remoteness and Indigenous status, 2006
Source: AIHW analysis derived from ABS population estimates based on the 2006 Census of Population and Housing
Text description of figure 97 (TXT 1KB)

Figure 98 – Youth Dependency Ratio, by Indigenous status, 2006–2010


Figure 98 – Youth Dependency Ratio, by Indigenous status, 2006–2010
Source: AIHW analysis derived from ABS population estimates based on the 2006 Census of Population and Housing
Text description of figure 98 (TXT 1KB)

Figure 99 – Aged Dependency Ratio, by Indigenous status, 2006–2010


Figure 99 – Aged Dependency Ratio, by Indigenous status, 2006–2010
Source: AIHW analysis derived from ABS population estimates based on the 2006 Census of Population and Housing
Text description of figure 99 (TXT 1KB)

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