Australia’s population continuing to grow rapidly

Australia’s population continuing to grow rapidly

Highlights from the latest population figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics

  • Victoria continues to be the fastest growing state in Australia
  • Net overseas migration at the highest levels since 2009
  • Interstate migration to Queensland picks up again after a few slow years
  • In a reversal of recent trends, Tasmania records a net interstate migration gain

Australia’s population has just had a 1-year update, with the release of Australian Demographic Statistics (3101.0) by the ABS.

This is a quarterly publication, but the December release is a bit special as it gives us an estimate of population change in the 1 year since the 2016 Census, the data from which are still being rolled out into .id’s population profiling tools.

At June 30th, 2017, Australia’s population stood at just under 24.6 million, with a growth of 388,000 over the previous year. This growth was up a bit on the last 3 years, (it had been fairly stable at about 350,000 per year), mainly due to an increase in overseas migration. This represents a 1.6% p.a. increase.

What is the population of each state in Australia?

(June 2017 vs June 2016)

State/Territory Jun-17 Jun-16 Increase 1 year % Increase
New South Wales 7,861,068 7,739,274 121,794 1.6%
Victoria 6,323,606 6,179,249 144,357 2.3%
Queensland 4,928,457 4,848,877 79,580 1.6%
South Australia 1,723,548 1,713,054 10,494 0.6%
Western Australia 2,580,354 2,558,951 21,403 0.8%
Tasmania 520,877 517,588 3,289 0.6%
Northern Territory 246,105 245,740 365 0.1%
Australian Capital Territory 410,301 403,468 6,833 1.7%
Australia (Total) 24,598,933 24,210,809 388,124 1.6%

Victoria continues to be the fastest growing state, for the 3rd year in a row, with the highest growth in numerical and percentage terms.

While it’s becoming the norm now, you have to go back to the 1880s to find the last time Victoria was the fastest growing state for three consecutive years! Northern Territory’s population barely moved, while Western Australia, while growing at 0.8%, showed less than one-quarter of the growth it did in 2013, when it was adding close to 80,000 people per year. Tasmania is now growing almost as fast as Western Australia (though much lower in absolute numbers).

Nationally, the “Natural increase” (more births than deaths) stood at 142,600 – or 37% of total growth. This was down a bit on the previous year, as the birth rate slowed. But it’s in the ball-park of the usual proportion of around a third to 40% of growth.

The impact of overseas migration

But it’s Net Overseas Migration which is particularly high – from a peak of 300,000 in 2009, in the last few years, it’s been steady at around 180-190,000 p.a. But in 2016-17, this rose to 245,400 – the highest since that year of 2009, when we were talking about “Big Australia”.

There has been a real shift in the location of this overseas migration back into New South Wales and Victoria. Particularly NSW, which in 2016-17 recorded the highest level of overseas migration in the past 50 years, at 98,570 people, or over 40% of all net migration.

Victoria’s was slightly lower, but still very strong, at 86,900. Since we know around 90% of migrants in these states go into Sydney and Melbourne respectively, we can say that Sydney and Melbourne account for over 70% of overseas migration into Australia. Western Australia’s share, which was high, at around 40-50,000 p.a. in 2011 through 2013, has fallen right back, and in 2016-17, only 13,100 new migrants called WA home. South Australia continues to get consistently around 10,000 p.a., while Queensland is up strongly to 31,100.

Interstate migration

Interstate migration is where it starts to get really interesting. This measures which states people are moving into, and which they’re moving away from, showing to a large extent the fortunes of different parts of Australia’s economy.

A few years ago, Western Australia was attracting lots of interstate migrants in the mining boom. However, in 2016-17, it showed a large net loss of 11,722 migrants who moved interstate (that is, 11,722 more people moved out of WA than moved in during the last year). The largest net interstate loss remains NSW, at -14,859 people, but this is not unusual – as the oldest state, NSW usually records a loss to others states, particularly Queensland, and more recently Victoria.

Victoria recorded a new high of 17,182 net interstate migrants in 2016-17 – numbers not seen in Victoria since the gold rush. Combined with Overseas migration, this means that movement into Victoria accounts for 73% of all population growth in that state – the highest of any state or territory.

However, it wasn’t the highest interstate migration, with Queensland picking up again after a few slow years, and attracting 17,426 interstate migrants.

Another interesting story is Tasmania. Typically the Apple Isle loses population interstate, and this has been the case in most years for at least the last decade. But in 2016-17, Tasmania recorded positive interstate migration, to the tune of 741 people. This may not sound like much, but it reverses years of losses. There has been a lot of talk about Hobart’s housing market and it may be that people are seeing Tasmania as a more affordable option compared to Sydney and Melbourne. The ACT is also recording gains in interstate migration for the first time in a while.

When will you see this data in our online tools?

This population update is not normally reflected in our tools for local government, as it features national and state data only. Local population estimates for 2017 will be available in April 2018, and these will be updated on our community profiles and economic profiles at that time.

Nevertheless, the release of this national data gives us an idea of what may be happening at the local level. Australia is moving back into a very strong growth phase, driven by strong gains across the eastern seaboard, as opposed to the last growth phase, which played out in the mining areas of Western Australia.

.id is a team of demographers, urban economists, spatial planners and Census data experts who use a unique combination of online tools and consulting to help governments and organisations plan for the future. Access our free demographic resources here.

Glenn Capuano - Census Expert

Glenn is our resident Census expert. After ten years working at the ABS, Glenn's deep knowledge of the Census has been a crucial input in the development of our community profiles. These tools help everyday people uncover the rich and important stories about our communities that are often hidden deep in the Census data. Glenn is also our most prolific blogger - if you're reading this, you've just finished reading one of his blogs. Take a quick look at the front page of our blog and you'll no doubt find more of Glenn's latest work. As a client manager, Glenn travels the country giving sought-after briefings to councils and communities (these are also great opportunities for Glenn to tend to his rankings in Geolocation games such as Munzee and Geocaching).

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