Australia’s population growth bounces back in March 2022 quarter

Australia’s population growth bounces back in March 2022 quarter

The latest quarterly update for Australia’s population shows the impact of re-opening national borders, and includes some minor adjustments to previous revised figures. Demographic expert Glenn Capuano analyses the results.

The ABS have released a quarterly update for Australia’s population, including state and territory estimates. This happens every quarter, usually about 6 months after the end of the quarter. The figures in this update relate to the March 2022 quarter, and show a substantial return to population growth, with the re-opening of national borders after the COVID lockdowns that characterised much of 2020 and 2021.

In March 2022, Australia’s population stood at 25,912,614, an increase of 124,168 people or 0.48% in one quarter. Remarkably, this is the largest quarterly growth since 2018, and is due mainly to a net overseas migration of +96,135 for the quarter. This reflects the re-opening of overseas and internal borders to most states in this period (WA only towards the end of the quarter), so probably reflects a pent-up migration demand, after people couldn’t settle in Australia due COVID-related rules, quarantine etc.

The ABS have also made some minor adjustments to past numbers, after the Census release caused major adjustments in the previous issue. Australia’s total population for June 2021 was adjusted up by a little from approximately 25,688,000 to 25,710,000. This is not a huge revision of the past numbers, but it does increase the 2020-21 COVID-affected growth rate from 0.13% to 0.21% for the year (+54,700 people). Despite the revision upwards, this yearly increase remains the lowest population growth since 1916, when the population declined due to World War I.

Here are the figures for March 2022 by state and territory, including the quarterly change.

State/territory Population March 2022 Change over previous quarter % change over previous quarter Natural Increase Net Interstate Migration Net Overseas Migration
NSW 8,150,837 34,685 0.43 9,860 -9,447 +34,272
Vic 6,615,141 33,373 0.51 4,709 -3,350 +32,014
Qld 5,301,570 31,055 0.59 6,372 +11,071 +13,612
SA 1,809,134 8,886 0.49 1,401 +432 +7,053
WA 2,760,377 11,201 0.41 3,876 2,375 +4,950
Tas 567,434 1,338 0.24 131 +156 +1,051
NT 249,859 1,053 0.42 687 -600 +966
ACT 453,398 2,545 0.56 993 -637 +2,189
Australia 25,912,614 124,168 0.48 28,033 0 +96,135

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, National, State and territory population, March 2022

A few things of interest at the state level:

  • New South Wales continues to experience substantial interstate migration loss, continuing at a slightly lower level after the lockdowns ended. For the year ended March 2022, this is now over 40,000, the highest seen in the last 40 years. But it’s offset now by a larger net overseas migration gain, of 34,272 in just one quarter, as Sydney remains the first port of call for migrants.
  • Victoria similarly continued to have interstate migration loss, but much lower than when the lockdowns were in effect. And overseas migration bounced back there too, with the borders reopened, adding 32,014 net overseas migrants, almost as many as NSW. Victoria’s population has now recovered from the declines during COVID and just exceeded the March 2020 pre-lockdown population.
  • Queensland continues to get the lion’s share of interstate migration, bolstering its population growth with an extra 11,071 net interstate migrants for the quarter and leading to a further record +54,000 interstate migrants over the year to March 2022. Add to this a return to positive net overseas migration and substantial natural increase, and Queensland remains Australia’s fastest growing jurisdiction; it added 0.6% to its population in a quarter and 1.8% in a year.
  • South Australia has also picked up quite a bit of overseas migration and interstate migration remains unusually positive for the year contributing to a 0.5% population growth for the quarter. (Prior to the pandemic SA had not had positive interstate migration since 1991.) But the previous year’s growth, which was recently revised up, has been revised back down a little.
  • Western Australia’s borders didn’t open until late in the quarter so it had a relatively small share of overseas migrants, but interstate migration remains positive and population growth for the year is 0.4%. WA’s population growth always responds more to the fortunes of the mining industry than any other factors. Pre-COVID, population growth had just been returning after a downturn of several years, and it seems likely to return to this underlying trend shortly.
  • Tasmania’s population was revised upwards after Census release; this quarter the ABS may have realised they had been over-exuberant and adjusted downwards just slightly. At 0.24%, the growth for the quarter is also the lowest in the country again. Perhaps young people who moved back to Tasmania during the pandemic left again in this quarter? Nevertheless, interstate migration remains slightly in positive territory, and the state gained over 1,000 overseas migrants. With an older population, however, Tasmania has very little natural increase (births against deaths) in the population.
  • The ACT and the Northern Territory both had similar trends, with a small overseas migration gain and small interstate losses. Nevertheless, the ACT remained the 2nd-fastest growing jurisdiction for the quarter, adding 0.56%.

The newly revised state/territory population figures for June 2021 will be included on .id’s community profiles shortly. The March 2022 figures will not be incorporated, as the local area estimates are only released annually. June 2022 population estimates for these are expected to be released in March 2023, at which point the benchmarks for state and territory populations will be updated on the sites as well.

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Glenn - The 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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