Population. – Over the last twenty years the Australian population has increased with an average rate of 2%: from 8,986,873 residents in 1954 it increased to 13,131,300 in 1973; the birth rate, although it has decreased in recent years from 23 ‰ to 20 ‰, remains quite high, while the mortality rate is constantly decreasing, which is around 8 ‰; among the lowest in the world is infant mortality which in 1973 was around 16%. Apart from the territory of the capital which has a density of 69.2 residents per km 2 against 13 in 1954, the only state that has reached a certain value of population density is that of Victoria with about 16 residents per km 2 in 1973 (while the national average does not exceed 1.7 residents per km2); more modest are the increases in New South Wales (from 4.3 to 5.9 residents per km 2), in Australia Occid. (from 0.3 to 0.4), in Australia Merid. (from 0.8 to 1.2) and in the Northern Territory (from 0.01 to 0.07) mainly due to the vastness of their territories. Considering the absolute values, New South Wales has the highest population with 4,701,000 residents in 1973, and with an average annual increase which in the last twenty years was 1.7%; the most significant increase occurred in Australia Occid., Which in the same period recorded an average annual increase of 2.7%, going from about 630,000 to 1,068,000 residents in 1973, and where among other things the capital Perth has doubled the values of its population.
Given the modest initial size, the highest average annual increases occurred in the territory of the capital (9.4% on average in the period 1953-73), where precisely Canberra has sixfold its population, and in the Northern Territories where in the same period Darwin’s population quadrupled.
In general, the increase in the number of urban centers, even small ones, and the growing demographic polarization of large cities, has meant that the urban population, already quite high, went from 79% in 1954 to 85.5% in 1954. 1971. The centers that exceed 30,000 residents there are 19: in addition to the capitals and the capital, they are Newcastle, Wollongong, Geelong, Townsville, Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Ballarat, Lanneston, Whyalla, Bendigo; the largest urban agglomerations are those of Sydney and Melbourne, with approximately 21.7% and 19.3% of the total population; Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth follow a little apart.
Overall, immigration is still quite high, remaining above 100,000 units (among these those pertaining to Italy – around 3,000 in 1973 – are decreasing), but return emigration is also gaining consistency, above all due to integration difficulties. in the socio-economic structure of the country (for a summary picture of the population see table 1).
Economic activities. – The. it has reached a degree of economic development which, expressed in terms of per capita income, allows it to be counted among the countries with an advanced economy, at the same level as the more advanced Western countries. Internal imbalances, which can be expressed through the relationship between public consumption and private consumption, have also been considerably attenuated; the average level of wages is quite high and the social security system, in the wake of the Anglo-Saxon tradition, is among the most advanced in the world; the average annual rate of unemployment is barely 2% of the total workforce. The trade balance is clearly favorable and exports, especially of raw materials, are constantly expanding.
Consequently, the importance of British initiatives, once prevalent, but already in sharp decline after the Second World War, gradually loses ground with the progressive insertion of the country in the Pacific economic area.
The manufacturing activity occupies the majority of the workforce, since in 1973 it concerned about 30% of the workers, against 8% of agricultural activities; the remainder concerned other industrial activities and those in the tertiary sector. A vast work of hydraulic reclamation has affected the lands of the Australia in the Darling and Murray basins, allowing for the extension of crops of all kinds. Agriculture is practiced with modern techniques and therefore with a vast use of capital, so it is able to cover a good part of the internal needs, allocating discrete surplus of some productions, for example. cereals, animal husbandry, etc. to exports. Altogether the arable land, arborescent crops and cultivated pastures occupied 44.6 million ha, that is about 6% of the total surface; more precisely, almost 60% was destined for permanent meadows and pastures, about 4% for forests and woods and the remainder was made up of uncultivated and unproductive land. Among the crops, the one that assumes greater importance is that of sugar cane (in continuous progress in the territories of Queensland and New South Wales), whose productions allow the Australia to occupy the first places in the world rankings.
Grains as a whole cover the largest part of the acreage, especially in New South Wales and Victoria, in the Murray alluvial soils. The production of wheat from 5 million q in 1955 increased to 80 million q in 1970 and, after a slight decline, to 120 million q in 1973; the production of oats and barley is also considerable, which in 1973 amounted to approximately 10 and z4 million q respectively. The crops of maize, rice and sorghum are still of lesser importance. The creation of vast irrigated areas in the Murray basin has allowed the further increase in the production of fruit and vegetables, especially tomatoes, with about 2.1 million q in 1973; in New South Wales, the cultivation of citrus fruits is favorable, while the vine took root successfully in the Australia Merid., In the territories around Adelaide and in the state of Victoria, with productions of a certain importance: in 1971 7.5 million q of grapes and 2 million and 750,000 hectoliters of wine were produced. Cotton is also growing, especially in New South Wales, Queensland and Australia Occid., With about 320,000 q of fiber in 1973.
Despite a contraction in the number of animals that has occurred in recent years, the Australia it has the most consistent sheep herd in the world: from 130 million head in 1955, it increased to 176 million in 1969 and 140 million in 1973; given the composition of the flocks – on average 70% is made up of merino sheep, – Australian wool production stands out clearly from other countries in the world ranking, with figures ranging between 4 and 5 million q of washed wool which is largely exported (thus making up about one third of the global export value) ; the share allocated to local spinning machines is still negligible. There is a huge production of meat, mainly sheep, which also constitute the second item, in order of importance, of exports. The use of the forestry heritage is increasing, which covers an area of approximately 500,000 km 2, consisting mainly of eucalyptus, acacias, etc. Despite the considerable possibilities offered by the Australian seas, fish production is scarce (110,900 t of catch in 1971); however, fishing for pearl oysters and mother-of-pearl is of some importance. For some years also the Australia is setting up a whaling fleet.
The mining industry, after having tasted the gold rush, a mineral of which it is still a large producer with about 21,000 kg in 1971, and after the important discoveries of strategic minerals, is now going through a very favorable period with the discovery of vast deposits of iron minerals in Australia Occid., With a high content, almost emerging on the surface. The production of iron ores, which among others considerably affects the Japanese steel industry, reached approximately 40 million tons of iron in 1972, with significant productions in the fields of Mount Goldsworthy, Koolanooka, Pilbara, etc. in. Occid. and Iron Baron in the Australia Southern. Among the metal ores, lead is present in considerable quantities, with a production of 370,000 t of lead content, which places the Australia in third place in the world ranking; the production of zinc is also considerable with 447,600 tons of zinc contained in 1974, coming from Broken Hill; copper production is also good with 247,560 tons of metal contained in 1974, coming from Mount Isa and Mount Morgan in Queensland; of tin, mainly from Tasmania and Queensland with 10,608 t of metal contained, of nickel from Kambalda and Scotia with about 35,000 t of metal contained in 1972. The supply of energy resources was further enriched by vast availability of hydrocarbons, which between not much will allow the country to fully cover its domestic needs. The production of hard coal, of which a fair amount is exported to Japan, comes largely from the fields of New South Wales, Queensland and Australia Occid. and in recent years it has exceeded 50 million tonnes; the production of lignite which is around 25 million tons is destined for thermoelectric production. Oil production, which began in the early 1960s, is already fairly good and reached 20 million tonnes in 1974, mainly from Queensland, with the fields of Moonie, Alton and Conloi and the island of Barrow; the production of natural gas in the Gippsland basin and on the continental shelf overlooking the Bass Strait is also moderate. The production of electricity is mainly obtained from thermal power plants: of about 60 million kWh produced in 1972, only 15% came from hydroelectric power plants, the contribution of which should increase with the exploitation of the Snowy river basin. Given the small size of the population, the industrial activity uses only a minimal part of the amount of natural resources available; the textile industry is also a particular case since it almost completely ignores wool and mainly processes cotton, which is also produced locally. The industrial activities as a whole are still concentrated in the coastal districts of Australia Merid., Of Victoria and part of Queensland, in a sort of arch, which roughly traces the path of the iron ores of Whyalla and coal of Sidney, in the interchange of the respective steel centers. In recent years, therefore, the steel industry together with the chemical industry, which now also uses hydrocarbons, have polarized the most substantial initiatives, and in part the mechanical one; the other metallurgical industries almost all stop at the first processing phases. In fact, the production of steel, with the centers of Whyalla, Kwinana, Newcastle, Westernport, is close to 8 million t and the production of the chemical industry, in addition to that of sulfuric acid (2.4 million t in 1974) and fertilizers, has been enriched by the production of plastic materials, artificial fibers, etc. For Australia 2001, please check naturegnosis.com.
The coastal location of almost all the major production and consumption centers has meant that the transport of goods between the various states takes place mainly by sea, while for the transport of passengers most of the movement takes place by air. The railways, of course, develop mainly along the southern and eastern coastal selvedges, spreading radially only in New South Wales and Victoria and in relation to the area of influence of Perth in the Australia Occid.; their function for the traffic of goods is further accentuated with the progressive discovery of the great mineral resources of the interior: in 1973 the overall length was about 40,500 km. Also in relation to the way in which the population of the Australia took place, the most important ports are located in the main cities: Sydney and Melbourne play a key role in intercontinental traffic. The road network, with approximately 890,000 km in 1971, is largely unpaved; among the great arteries the Stuart Highway, which cuts the continent from Adelaide to Darwin, and the Great Northern Highway which connects Perth with the major mining centers of the Australia Occid. up to Marble Bar.