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Population growth: context in a few critical graphs

By Ross Elliott - posted Wednesday, 9 August 2023

Population projections that talk of very high growth are welcomed by some parts of the business community and many governments. Others warn that the numbers and speed of growth will fast outpace our ability to provide the necessary social and other infrastructure required to maintain the quality of life that attracted people in the first place.

Rarely though does either side of this discussion provide some context to numbers so that we can arrive at our own conclusions. With that in mind, here are some graphs and comparisons that might help. You can draw your own conclusions.



This graph (above) shows a range of global cities often mentioned as comparison cities in discussions about Australian urbanism. It's a random selection and not exhaustive. It shows that the predicted population increases for Australia's largest cities are generally on a par with or exceeding the growth of these cities – nearly all of which are much larger in total population than Australian cities. The exception is Tokyo, which is shrinking.

This is the same data but this time showing the increases in population as a percentage rather than as a raw number. In this comparison, tTThis graph is helpful to show the speed and scale at which a city's population is predicted to grow.

In this graph, for comparison's sake, I have added in some mega cities in developing parts of the world such as India and Africa. Much of the world's growth in population will come from the sub-continent and from Africa. India will overtake China as the world's most populous country. The African population will surge. Lagos in Nigeria, for example, will grow by 17 million people in the same time our cities grow by between 2 and 4 million.


Looking at these growth rates as percentages however shows that the rate of growth in Australian cities is equal to or near to the rate of growth of Delhi, Mumbai and Lagos. There are some very obvious differences in housing, social infrastructure, quality of life, regulatory and governance frameworks and a range of other metrics which makes our cities very different from these.

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About the Author

Ross Elliott is an industry consultant and business advisor, currently working with property economists Macroplan and engineers Calibre, among others.

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