Australian population powers on with NSW, Victoria taking the lion's share of immigrants

Photo: Ryan Pierse/ Getty Images.
  • Australian population growth accelerated slightly in the 12 months to September, driven by faster immigration and natural increase.
  • Over the year, Australia’s population grew by 395,100, the fastest pace in 12 months. 61% came from net overseas migration.
  • Victoria and New South Wales recorded the strongest population growth across Australia. Nearly three-quarters of the national increase in NOM over the year was to these two states.

Australian population growth accelerated last year, driven by both natural increase and migration.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Australia’s population swelled by 395,100 in the 12 months to September, the fastest increase in a year.

Australia’s total population stood at 25.1 million at the end of the quarter, up 1.6% from year earlier, the same pace recorded in the 12 months to June.

Net overseas migration (NOM) once again drove the majority of the increase, lifting by 240,100 from a year earlier. That too was the fastest increase in a year.

NOM simply measures overseas arrivals less departures over a given period.

To be counted in NOM, a person — regardless of where they were born — must have stayed in Australia or lived overseas for at least 12 months over a 16-month period. It does not include short-term visitor arrivals or departures from Australia, defined as trip of 12 months or less.

The vast bulk of NOM comes from temporary visa holders, such as student visas, rather than permanent arrivals and departures.

Natural increase — simply measuring births less deaths — also picked up, lifting by 155,100 from a year earlier, the fastest increase over a comparable period since the December quarter of 2014.

In percentage terms, 61% of the growth in population came from NOM, with the remaining 31% coming from natural increase.

Over a third of the national increase came from just one state: Victoria.

As seen in the table below from the ABS, it’s population swelled by 139,700, faster than the 119,500 increase seen in New South Wales over the same period.

ABS

All other states and territories aside from the Northern Territory also recorded an increase in population, albeit far slower than Australia’s most populous states, at least in numeric terms.

The split in population growth over the year reflects divergent economic conditions across the country last year, encouraging people both within Australia and abroad to move to Australia’s southeastern corner.

Digging into the state data, nearly three-quarters of the increase in NOM over the year occurred in New South Wales and Victoria, lifting by 88,900 and 84,800 respectively.

While still large compared to periods in the past, NOM in both states has slowed after hitting record highs in 2017.

Strong population growth in these states over the past decade, especially in the respective capital cities, Sydney and Melbourne, has dominated political discussion in Australia recently, fuelled by concern that it is simply too fast for infrastructure to keep up, leading to what some believe is a decline in living standards for those already residing in these locations.

In response to growing calls to help address those concerns, Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced this week that Australia’s annual immigration cap would be cut from 190,000 to 160,000 per annum over the next four years.

“Australia has thrived from a steady population growth and is the most successful immigration nation in the world and our plan will ensure our country continues to lead the way. But over the last two decades, the infrastructure and services have not kept pace, causing congestion on our roads and public transport particularly in Melbourne, Sydney and South East Queensland,” Morrison said.

“We will reduce the cap on our migration program, build the infrastructure and deliver the services Australians need, and plan for a more evenly distributed population growth.”

While Australia’s immigration currently stands at 190,000 per annum, only 162,417 people permanently migrated to Australia in the last financial year, according to data from Australia’s Department of Home Affairs

Along with a cut in Australia’s migration cap, Morrison said the government will provide stronger incentives for new arrivals — both permanent and temporary — to settle outside of Australia’s largest cities.

“New measures will be introduced that will better match migration to regional needs, ease the pressure on big cities and ensure Australia remains an attractive destination to live and work for highly skilled and talented people from around the globe,” he said.

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