Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rate the ABS website
ABS Home > Statistics > By Release Date
ABS @ Facebook ABS @ Twitter ABS RSS ABS Email notification service
4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1998  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 03/06/1998   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product  
Contents >> Population >> Population Distribution: Interstate migration

Population Distribution: Interstate migration

Between 1991 and 1996 there was a net flow of population out of Victoria and New South Wales and into Queensland and Western Australia.

Across Australia there is a constant flow of individuals and families moving to new locations. Between 1991 and 1996, 6.6 million people changed their address in Australia. Of these people, 5.7 million moved to a new address in the same State, and a further 0.8 million people moved to a different State.

In general, net interstate migration flows were still northwards up the east coast and westwards across to Western Australia (see Australian Social Trends 1995, Internal migration). Queensland had the largest population gain between 1991 and 1996 from interstate migration - 268,000 people arrived from interstate and 122,500 people departed for another State or Territory, resulting in a net gain of 145,500 people. Queensland recorded net gains from all States and both Territories, while Western Australia recorded net gains from every State and Territory except for Queensland.

States carefully monitor changes in the size of their population because they affect their allocation of Commonwealth funds and their number of seats in the House of Representatives. At the local level, changes in population size and age distribution affect the demand for services like health, education and housing.

The movement of people from one State to another is only one way the population of a State can grow. The size of a State's population is also affected by the number of births, deaths, and people leaving to live overseas or arriving from overseas. In general, gains from interstate migration have a smaller effect on the population of States and Territories than natural increase (births minus deaths). However, in Queensland, estimated net annual interstate migration has consistently exceeded annual natural increase since 1988.1


Definitions

Net interstate migration is the difference between the number of people who have changed their place of usual residence by moving into a given State or Territory and the number who have changed their place of usual residence by moving out of that State or Territory. The difference can be either positive or negative.

The use of Census data to determine migration patterns has some limitations, namely:
  • The 1996 Census collected information on place of residence of respondents five years earlier and one year earlier. Other movements that took place between census night 1996 and five years earlier are unknown.
  • Characteristics such as age, occupation etc. of respondents apply to census night and do not apply to the time of movement.
  • The Census missed some people, particularly young adult males, because of their increased likelihood of moving.

MAIN NET INTERSTATE MIGRATION FLOWS(a) 1991-1996


INTERSTATE MOVERS(a) BY STATE OF ARRIVAL AND STATE OF DEPARTURE 1991-1996

State of usual residence at 6 August 1996

State of usual residence at
NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Aust.
6 August 1991
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000

New South Wales
. .
42.6
127.7
14.3
19.6
6.7
6.2
26.2
243.2
Victoria
57.9
. .
74.5
16.8
19.2
7.4
6.6
7.0
189.4
Queensland
59.9
24.5
. .
7.7
12.6
4.9
7.4
5.5
122.5
South Australia
16.1
16.5
19.6
. .
8.2
2.2
6.9
2.6
72.0
Western Australia
14.0
11.2
15.0
5.3
. .
2.6
4.4
2.1
54.5
Tasmania
6.5
7.7
9.6
1.9
4.0
. .
0.7
1.1
31.4
Northern Territory
5.0
3.3
11.7
6.0
5.8
0.7
. .
1.0
33.6
Australian Capital Territory
25.1
5.0
9.9
1.6
2.4
0.7
0.8
. .
45.5
Australia
184.4
110.7
268.0
53.7
71.7
25.2
33.0
45.4
792.1
Net gain or loss 1991-96
-58.8
-78.6
145.5
-18.3
17.3
-6.3
-0.7
-0.1
. .
Net gain or loss 1986-91
-93.3
-45.2
125.3
-4.3
16.1
0.1
-3.8
5.1
. .
Net gain or loss 1981-86
-61.3
-39.0
87.5
-8.7
15.6
-2.2
3.3
4.8
. .

(a) Those living in a different State on census day 1996 from census day 1991. Based on usual residence, and excludes children aged less than five years at census day 1996.

Source: Population Growth and Distribution in Australia (cat. no. 2504.0 Census 1986, cat. no. 2822.0 Census 1991) and unpublished data, 1996 Census of Population and Housing, 1996.


Where we move
Although all States and Territories both gained and lost interstate movers, the resulting redistribution of people is unequal. Between 1991 and 1996, only two States gained population overall, Queensland and Western Australia (net gains of 145,500 and 17,300 respectively). The other States and Territories lost more people than they gained. Victoria had a net loss of 78,600 people, New South Wales 58,800, South Australia 18,300, Tasmania 6,300, the Northern Territory 700 and the Australian Capital Territory 100.

Queensland was the most common destination of movers from all States and the Northern Territory, and the second most common destination of those leaving the Australian Capital Territory. The largest contributor to Queensland's net population gain was New South Wales, 127,700 people having moved north over the border. This was followed by Victoria which contributed 74,500 people.

Like Queensland, Western Australia also had a net gain in population (17,300 people), while 54,500 people left, going mainly to Queensland (28%), New South Wales (26%) and Victoria (21%). The 71,700 who arrived came mainly from New South Wales (27%), Victoria (27%) and Queensland (18%).

Victoria had the largest net loss of population: 78,600 people. Victorians who moved out went mainly to Queensland (39%), New South Wales (31%) and Western Australia (10%) while people moving into Victoria came mainly from New South Wales (38%), Queensland (22%) and South Australia (15%).

New South Wales had a net population loss of 58,800 people, the result of 184,400 people arriving and 243,200 leaving. Those movers arriving in New South Wales came mainly from Queensland (32%), Victoria (31%) and the Australian Capital Territory (14%) while those leaving went mainly to Queensland (53%), Victoria (18%) and the Australian Capital Territory (11%).

POPULATION TURNOVER(a), 1991-1996

State/Territory
no.
%(b)

New South Wales
427,678
7.1
Victoria
300,096
6.8
Queensland
390,515
12.0
South Australia
125,687
8.7
Western Australia
126,197
7.4
Tasmania
56,559
12.2
Northern Territory
66,598
38.0
Australia Capital Territory
90,900
30.4
Australia
1,584 230
8.9

(a) The number of people who had moved into, or out of, a State/Territory.
(b) Percentage of the usual resident population at 6th August 1996.

Source: Unpublished data, 1996 Census of Population and Housing.


Population turnover
The movement of people around Australia has economic and social impacts that extend beyond the families and individuals involved. Children are taken out of school and re-enrolled at their new location; houses are sold and bought or rental tenancies are cancelled and new ones entered into; jobs are left and started, or more or fewer people compete for available jobs. These changes require many adjustments in service and infrastructure provision to cope with more people or remain viable with fewer.

The use of net migration to summarise the difference between people leaving and arriving removes attention from the number of people involved, especially when the number of people leaving and arriving are similar and produce a small net migration. An alternative measure is to use population turnover (the addition of people arriving and people leaving) and to relate it to the population of the State or Territory.2

The impact of internal migration is likely to be felt more in the States and Territories where the number of people leaving and arriving is large in relation to the population of that State or Territory. For example, the Northern Territory has a small resident population (about 175,300 people in 1996). Between 1991 and 1996 the Northern Territory experienced only a small net loss of less than 1,000 people from interstate migration. However, over that period 33,600 left the Territory and 33,000 arrived. These figures combine to give a population turnover of 66,600 people or about 38% of the usual resident population of the Northern Territory in 1996.

Conversely, New South Wales had the largest population turnover, 427,700 people, but is the most populous State with over 6 million people in 1996. Its turnover represented 7% of its population in 1996.

AGE-SPECIFIC INTER-STATE MOBILITY RATES(a) OF PEOPLE BETWEEN 1991 AND 1996
(a) Based on age and population figures in 1996. Since the move could have taken place at any time during the five-year period, the actual ages at the time of movement would be younger. The data excludes children under five years old in 1996.

Source: Unpublished data, 1996 Census of Population and Housing.


Who moves?
All kinds of people move interstate. But some people are more likely to move than others. In general, previous research has demonstrated that young adults, people who are separated and/or divorced, unemployed people and recent immigrants from main English speaking countries have a greater likelihood of moving than people who are older, married or immigrants from non-English speaking countries2.

Young adults in their twenties and thirties had the highest interstate mobility rates (the number of people of a specific age who moved interstate expressed as a proportion of the population of the same age) between 1991 and 1996. The highest rate, 8.4%, occurred at ages 25 and 26. However, because the age of the interstate mover was recorded in 1996 rather than when the move took place, the actual age at the time of the move would on average have been younger. The interstate mobility rate of children decreased with age. Since children usually only move because their parent/s move, this indicates that families with older children are less likely to move than those with younger children. After the ages of 25 and 26, the mobility rate decreased with increasing age. The interstate mobility rate of people around the traditional ages of retirement, 55-65, ranged from 2.9% to 2.3% respectively.

The median age of interstate movers, 30.1 years, is a result of their young age profile. In comparison, the median age of all Australians in 1996 was 34.0 years. The differences in the ages of people moving into a State or Territory and people moving out are demonstrated by their median ages and their age structure. In Queensland and Western Australia the overall net gains occurred across all ages. In New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia the net losses also occurred across all ages.

In Tasmania and the two Territories the differences in median age between interstate movers arriving and leaving were quite marked. Interstate movers arriving in Tasmania were older, having a median age of 32.2 years. Those leaving were younger, having a median age of 27.8 years. The pattern of net migration by age shows that Tasmania had net losses in all age groups under 60 years and a small net gain of 400 people over 60. In the 20-24 year age group the bias was strongly towards leaving Tasmania: 2,000 arrived and 4,900 left, resulting in a net loss of 2,900 people.

In the Australian Capital Territory the largest net loss occurred among people aged 35-59: 2,100 people (12,200 arrived and 14,300 left). However, there was a small net gain of 3,100 people aged 15-24 (12,300 arrived and 9,200 left). Similarly, the Northern Territory, although having a small overall loss of 700 people, had a net gain of 3,600 people in the 20-34 age group and a net loss of people in all other age groups.

Overall, people moving interstate between 1991 and 1996 were slightly more likely to be male. For every 100 female interstate movers between 1991 and 1996 there were 103 males. This reflects the high mobility rate of young males. There were differences in the sex ratios of particular States and Territories. The Northern Territory had a high male bias with 115 males arriving for every 100 females and 107 leaving for every 100 females. Western Australia also had a bias towards males with 111 males arriving for every 100 females and 105 males leaving for every 100 females. Only in the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria was there a slight bias towards females arriving with 98 males arriving for every 100 females and 99 males arriving for every 100 females respectively.

SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS OF INTERSTATE MOVERS, 1991-1996

Characteristic
NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Total

Median age(a) 1996
years
years
years
years
years
years
years
years
years
    Arrivals
30.3
30.0
30.9
30.1
29.4
32.2
28.5
27.4
30.1
    Departures
30.2
30.5
30.0
29.7
30.6
27.8
31.0
29.5
30.1

Net migration by age(a)
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000

5
-6.7
-8.1
15.0
-0.9
1.5
-0.3
-0.5
-0.1
. .
6-14
-5.6
-7.1
13.8
-1.3
1.2
-0.5
-0.6
-0.1
. .
15-19
-6.4
-4.4
11.2
-0.9
0.7
-1.2
-0.5
1.6
. .
20-24
-7.0
-7.8
13.7
-3.0
3.4
-2.9
2.1
1.5
. .
25-34
-10.0
-18.4
28.4
-6.3
6.4
-1.3
1.5
-0.3
. .
35-59
-17.5
-28.6
52.8
-5.9
3.6
-0.4
-1.9
-2.1
. .
60 or older
-5.6
-4.3
10.6
-0.1
0.4
0.4
-0.8
-0.6
. .
Total
-58.8
-78.6
145.5
-18.3
17.3
-6.3
-0.7
-0.1
. .

Sex ratios(b)
ratio
ratio
ratio
ratio
ratio
ratio
ratio
ratio
ratio
    Arrivals
101.1
98.8
102.2
104.1
111.2
99.9
114.6
98.4
102.6
    Departures
101.4
104.6
101.8
101.6
105.2
99.3
106.8
99.8
102.6

(a) Based on age in 1996. Since the move could have taken place at any time during the five-year period, the actual ages at the time of movement would be younger. The data excludes children under five years old in 1996.
(b) Males per 100 females.

Source: Unpublished data, 1996 Census of Population and Housing.

Why we move
The Census does not ask people why they moved. Surveys of movers have found that among the many reasons people move home to another State or Territory, the most common are related to employment and social amenity (the proximity to family, friends and people of similar ethnicity or religion).3

For example, a 1995 survey of people who had moved residence in the past 12 months in Queensland4 identified some of the motivations behind people's moves into that State. The majority of people who had moved from another State or Territory did so for reasons relating to employment (40%) and location (38%). The importance of these factors varied with the age of the movers. For young (aged 15-19) and old movers (aged 55 years or more) location was the most important factor while employment was the most important factor among people aged 20-54.



Endnotes

1 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1997, Australian Demographic Trends 1997, cat. no. 3102.0,
ABS Canberra.

2 Bell, Martin, 1995, Internal migration in Australia 1986–1991: Overview report, AGPS, Canberra.

3 Flood, J. Maher, C. Newton, P. Roy, J. 1991, The Determinants of Internal Migration in Australia, Indicative Planning Council for the Housing Industry, CSIRO, Melbourne.

4 Government Statisticians Office, 1996, 1995 Queensland Migration Survey, Queensland Government, Brisbane.


Previous PageNext Page

Bookmark and Share. Opens in a new window


Commonwealth of Australia 2014

Unless otherwise noted, content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence together with any terms, conditions and exclusions as set out in the website Copyright notice. For permission to do anything beyond the scope of this licence and copyright terms contact us.