, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 117-132
Date: 07 May 2013

‘Closing the Gap’ in Indigenous life expectancies: what if we succeed?

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Abstract

In 2007–2008 the Council of Australian Governments agreed to six ambitious targets for addressing longstanding disparities between Indigenous and other Australians in health, education and employment outcomes. The ‘National Integrated Strategy for Closing the Gap on Indigenous Disadvantage’ (colloquially ‘Closing the Gap’) includes the goal of eliminating life expectancy gaps within a generation. This policy says nothing about what changes in the demographic structure of the population might be expected should there be even partial success towards this ambitious target. Information is required to analyse age and sex shifts for their effects on service demand and provision. In this study we apply cohort component projections modelling to the Northern Territory, the Australian jurisdiction with the largest Indigenous component in its population and the largest life expectancy gaps, to assess the demographic effects of closing the gap within a generation. Three scenarios are modelled: (1) No changes to Indigenous life expectancies from those estimated in 2010; (2) Complete success in closing the gap within a generation; and (3) A continuation of current forecasts about how Indigenous life expectancies will change into the future. Although closing the gap would only produce a small increase in the size of the next generation’s Indigenous population, over and above that projected with lower life expectancy scenarios, it would result in substantial changes in age compositions, with associated shifts in various demographic indices. These are pertinent to the planning and funding of core services into the future.