Australia’s population is set to rise by between nearly 50% and 100% over the next 50 years, something that will have implications for a host of current issues and policies.

Retirement policy, other areas of social welfare, health, climate policy, not to mention employment and taxation will be some of the areas that will be affected by the latest population projections from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Tax rates will have to change, health insurance will have to better reflect the ageing population and someone will have to invent a form of aged care insurance because the 65 years and over will be the growth sector of the economy and the population.

In a paper released today the ABS said that 2056, up to one quarter of the country’s population will be aged 65 or older.

That will be up from a current figure of around 13% of a population of 21 million.

The ABS said that by 2056 Australia’s population is projected to increase to between 31 and 43 million people, with around 23% to 25% being 65 years or older.

In actual numbers that could mean around 10 million or more people will be aged 65 our older, compared to around 2.7 million.

In 2007 Australia’s population was 21 million people, with 13% being 65 years or older. The ageing of Australia’s population is the result of sustained low fertility, combined with increasing life expectancy.

The number of people aged 85 years or over is likely to increase rapidly over the next 50 years, from 344,000 people in 2007 to between 1.7 million and 3.1 million people in 2056.

By then, people aged 85 years or over will make up 5% to 7% of Australia’s population, compared to only 1.6% in 2007,” the ABS said in a statement.

The Bureau said the projections are based on a series of assumptions that take into account recent trends in fertility, mortality and migration.

The most important issue will be in the social welfare, taxation and in the employment.

The number of people aged 65 or more will rise much faster than the population: it could be up to four times as fast (from around 2.7 million to more than 10 million) if the population grows to around 43 million.

If it merely increases to around 31 million, the increase will be milder, but still substantial, from the current level of around 2.7 million to around 7 million. That’s a tripling, which will still put more pressure on retirement homes and aged care, health services and on taxation and employment policies.

Water policy, global warming and carbon emission policies will have to be reworked to take account of these new figures.

Employers will have fewer people to choose from because the overall size of the working population will be smaller proportionately than it is now. Fewer people working will support more people in retirement, a situation that will call for some radical changes in taxation policy.

But more people will have to be encouraged to keep working (as is happening now) until well past 65 and even 70 years of age.

Eating habits will change, as will retailing: more online shopping and home delivery.