Australia's population growth stagnates

Australia's population growth stagnates
Australia's population growth stagnates

Based on the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for the 12 months to March 2011, the results of a controlled federal government slowdown in migration for the period has become evident.

During this period, Australia's population increased by just 1.4%, which equates to approximately 312,000 people; the lowest level of annual population growth since the 12 months to June 2006 (303,089).

In percentage terms, it is also the lowest annual rate of population growth since the 12 months to December 2005 (1.4%). Despite the slowdown, population growth is still tracking well above the long-term average rate of growth (254,561), over the year. The long-term average is measured since 1981.

Net overseas migration slowed over the March 2011 quarter. However, with increases to migration, particularly skilled migration, announced in the federal budget, we may see a reversal of these trends over the coming year.

Across the individual states, New South Wales recorded the greatest increase in population in raw number terms, up 82,134 persons over the past 12 months. In percentage terms, New South Wales' population is growing by just 1.1% over the year compared to Western Australia where the population growth of 50,962 persons equates to a 2.2% increase over the year.

Looking at interstate migration, New South Wales, South Australia and Northern Territory are losing residents to other states with the largest beneficiaries being Queensland (7,391) and Western Australia (4,996).

The outflow of residents from New South Wales is now at near-to their lowest levels since December 1998, while Victoria's interstate migration is the strongest since June 2002. Interstate migration to Queensland is now at its lowest of any period since 1981 while in Western Australia, interstate migration is increasing again but below levels recorded between mid-2007 and mid-2009.

These latest results confirm that when people do migrate from overseas, their preference is to settle in the more populated states such as New South Wales which captured 29.9% of all overseas migrants followed by Victoria (27.3%), Queensland (18.4%) and Western Australia (16.4%). Collectively, these four states accounted for 92% of net overseas migration.

Overall, this recent data shows that Australia's rate of population growth is slowing however, in raw number terms it remains well above the long-term average level.

"Australians are now showing a decreased propensity to move interstate and obviously this is causing population growth into Queensland to slow markedly after it had previously held the mantle as the strongest population growth state for many years,” the ABS says.

"From a housing market perspective, the lower rate of population growth directly affects demand for housing. A potential trend that we may see emerge is an increase in the number of interstate migrants, particularly from New South Wales and Victoria, heading to Queensland and Western Australia.”

At a national level, population grows in two ways: natural increase (births minus deaths) and net overseas migration (inflow of migrants who will say in the country for at least a year minus outflow of Australian citizens). The slowdown in population growth is almost entirely due to a reduction in overseas migration.

Over the 12 months to March 2011, 145,207 more babies were born than residents who passed away, and 167,148 new migrants moved to Australia.

Although both components have eased over the past 12 months, the level of natural increase has fallen by just -6.0% compared to a -24.0% decline in the rate of overseas migration.


Over the 12 months to March 2011, natural increase accounted for 46.5% of the total national population growth, its highest proportion since the 12 months to June 2005 (46.6%).

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Cameron Kusher is senior research analyst at RP Data.

This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.

Cameron Kusher

Cameron Kusher

Cameron Kusher is senior research analyst at CoreLogic RP Data.

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