Australian population grows albeit at a slower rate than expected

by Mark Benson on June 20, 2012

in General Information

Australian population grows albeit at a slower rate than expected

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has today released some interesting figures with regards to Australia’s population which is now approaching 22.5 million people. It gives an interesting insight into how immigration is impacting upon the population and also gives some insight into which areas of the country appear to be prospering more than others.

Australian population

Despite the fact that Australia has been grabbing headlines lately with regards to economic performance and indeed at first glance it is an enormous country, the population at this point in time is just under 22.5 million people. This will surprise many people however when you bear in mind the fact that some areas of the country are inaccessible and not exactly conducive to everyday living then perhaps this brings it more into perspective.

The overall population of Australia has been impacted time and time again by the immigration policies of governments in years gone by. Indeed in many ways the country itself has been based upon immigrants from all areas of the world over the last few centuries. We will now take a look at the specifics of the report released today remembering that there is an actual increase in the population even though it is less than expected.

Overall increase

Amongst the press headlines of a slowdown in population growth across Australia you will need to dig deep to find that the population actually increased by 302,600 people in the year to December 2011. This equates to a growth rate of 1.4% which is significantly down on that expected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics mainly because fewer people visiting Australia have decided to come back and make the country their new homeland.

There were expectations of an additional increase of 300,000 in the Australian population according to various census and bureau statistics. Quite how the bureau has got this figure so wrong is difficult to say but the problem is that it does call into question future estimates of population growth. Population growth in any country is a vital element of forward planning with regards to budget requirements, taxes and public services.

Net migration

When you dig deeper into the bureau figures you will find that 55% of the growth in the Australian population came as a result of net overseas migration. This may seem a little on the low side when you bear in mind the Australian economy is faring far better than the vast majority of economies around the world but then again personal finances are under pressure and people may not be able to afford to take the risk or even afford the cost of moving overseas.

The balance of the increase in the Australian population came as a result of net birth and death rates which both increased by 2.5% during the calendar year. Again, the net birth and death rate is also a vital element of future planning for any government because finances are the key to the future prosperity of the country.

Breakdown across the country

The very fact that the Australian Bureau of Statistics was able to issue such specific population forecasts for the future does give us something to compare and contrast. Some of the biggest losers, with regards to expected population increases, were Queensland with just over 106,000 fewer people, New South Wales with just over 91,000 fewer residents, Victoria which was impacted to the tune of 87,000 people and South Australia with 18,000 fewer residents.

In contrast the figures show there were an additional 3,000 people settling in Western Australia, 2,000 in the Australian Capital Territory and 1,000 in the Northern Territory and Tasmania. It will come as no surprise to learn that there was a significant increase in the population in Western Australia bearing in mind the strength of the mining industry and the ongoing influx of skilled overseas workers. The situation with regards to Western Australia is likely to continue for the foreseeable future especially when you bear in mind very recent changes to the immigration system in relation to skilled workers.

Impact upon government finances

As we touched on above, it is vital that the government is able to trust various population forecasts released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics because they can then plan ahead with regards to tax income, expenditure and balancing the books. The very fact that the figures for 2012 were significantly lower than expected will cause some alarm within government circles but in reality we are going through a very difficult worldwide economic downturn and it is nigh on impossible to predict who will move where and when.

However, one thing is for certain, Australia is still a very popular destination for expats around the world and the relatively strong economy is only adding to this attraction. Whether the country has moved into a different league with regards to economic performance and international trading only time will tell but there have been major changes over the last decade.

Will 2012 be more of the same?

Against the backdrop of a very difficult worldwide economic situation it is difficult to see how Australia can become less popular amongst expats and skilled workers overseas. As a consequence, we are likely to see more of the same although trying to predict the exact increase/decrease in the population is almost impossible at the moment.

However, when you take into account that the mining industry continues to boom and there are significant skill shortages across-the-board it seems inevitable that the number of skilled workers moving to Australia will increase significantly.


While the increase in the overall Australian population was far less than expected we need to remember that these are very difficult and very challenging economic times. Australia continues to go from strength to strength but those perhaps looking to move to Australia may well have seen their own personal finances weakened over the last few months and may well be putting off any permanent trip overseas.

It will be interesting to see how the figures progress in 2012 and indeed whether the ongoing attractions of Australia stay at the forefront of the minds of many skilled workers and expats.

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