3101.0 - Australian Demographic Statistics, Dec 2011 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/06/2012   
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1 This quarterly publication contains the most recent estimates of the resident populations (ERP) of Australia and the states and territories based on the results of the 2011 Census of Population and Housing held on 9 August 2011 (with various adjustments described in paragraph 5). The ABS has used the 2011 Census to produce preliminary rebased estimates of the resident population (refer to paragraph 6). This publication contains the latest available statistics on births, deaths (including infant deaths) and overseas and interstate migration. In addition, the publication includes estimates of the resident population by age groups, major population regions and experimental estimates and projections of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. It also includes projected resident populations and projected number of households. Periodically, articles on specific demographic topics will be released on the ABS web site in conjunction with this publication.

2 Following the 1992 amendments to the Acts Interpretation Act to include the Indian Ocean Territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands as part of geographic Australia, population estimates commencing from September quarter 1993 include estimates for these two territories. To reflect this change, another category of the state and territory level has been created, known as Other Territories. Other Territories include Jervis Bay Territory (previously included with the Australian Capital Territory), as well as Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands which were previously excluded from population estimates for Australia. Data for Other and External Territories are detailed separately in table 8.

3 Estimates for Australian External Territories will be updated annually as at 30 June unless a more recent estimate is required for electoral apportionment purposes under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.


4 Australia’s population estimates for the period since 1971 are compiled according to the place of usual residence of the population. An explanation of the place of usual residence conceptual basis for population estimates is given in Information Paper: Population Concepts, 2008 (cat. no. 3107.0.55.006) and also in Population Estimates: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2009 (cat. no. 3228.0.55.001).

Method of estimation

5 The estimated resident population is an estimate of the Australian population obtained by adding to the estimated population at the beginning of each period the component of natural increase (on a usual residence basis) and the component of net overseas migration. For the states and territories, account is also taken of estimated interstate movements involving a change of usual residence. Estimates of the resident population are based on Census counts by place of usual residence, to which are added the estimated Census net undercount and the number of Australian residents estimated to have been temporarily overseas at the time of the Census. Overseas visitors in Australia are excluded from this calculation.

6 After each Census, estimates for the preceding intercensal period are revised by incorporating an additional adjustment (intercensal discrepancy) to ensure that the total intercensal increase agrees with the difference between the estimated resident populations at the two 30 June dates in the respective Census years.

Status of quarterly ERP data

7 The status of quarterly ERP data changes over time from preliminary to revised to final as new component data becomes available. The following table shows the current status of ERP and the components of population change: natural increase, net overseas migration and net interstate migration.

Status of quarterly Estimated Resident Population (ERP) data, as at 20 June 2012

Census base Natural increase Net overseas migration Net interstate migration ERP STATUS

Sep. 2001-Jun. 2006 2006 Census Final Final Final FINAL
Sep. 2006-Jun. 2010 2011 Census Revised - based on date of occurrence Final - based on actual traveller behaviour Preliminary - modelled expansion factors based on 2006 Census PRELIMINARY REBASED
Sep. 2010-Jun. 2011 2011 Census Preliminary - based on date of registration Preliminary - based on modelled traveller behaviour Preliminary - modelled expansion factors based on 2006 Census PRELIMINARY REBASED
Sep. 2011-Dec. 2011 2011 Census Preliminary - based on date of registration Preliminary - based on modelled traveller behaviour Preliminary - modelled expansion factors based on 2006 Census PRELIMINARY

Natural increase: births and deaths

8 Natural increase is a major component of ABS quarterly state and territory population estimates and is calculated using the estimated number of births and deaths. The births and deaths data in this release are shown by state and territory of usual residence, using year/quarter of registration for preliminary data and year/quarter of occurrence for both revised and final data. This may affect time series comparisons within relevant tables. For preliminary estimates, births and deaths by quarter of registration are used as a proxy for quarter of occurrence. For revised estimates, a factor has been applied to the number of occurrences to allow for those occurrences which were yet to be registered at the time of revision. For final estimates between 30 June 1991 and 30 June 2006, year/quarter of occurrence data are used. For further details see Demography Working Paper 1998/2 - Quarterly Birth and Death Estimates, 1998 (cat. no. 3114.0).

9 The timeliness and accuracy of ABS quarterly population estimates depend in part on the timeliness and accuracy of estimates of births and deaths which are based on registrations. To be able to provide timely estimates, the ABS produces preliminary estimates using births and deaths by quarter of registration as a proxy for quarter of occurrence. The major difficulty in this area stems from the fact that while the vast majority of births and deaths are registered promptly, a small proportion of registrations are delayed for months or even years. Lags or accumulations in births and deaths registrations can be caused by:
  • late notification of a birth or death event to a state or territory registry;
  • delays arising from incomplete information supplied for a registration;
  • procedural changes affecting the processing cycles in any of the state and territory registries; or
  • resolution of issues that may arise within the ABS or registry processing systems.

10 Preliminary birth and death estimates are subject to fluctuations caused by lags or accumulations in the reporting of births and deaths registrations. Accumulations can result from the eventual processing of lagged registrations in a later quarter. As a result, preliminary quarterly estimates can be an underestimate or an overestimate of the true numbers of births and deaths occurring in a reference period.

11 Selected birth and death registration data contributing to preliminary estimates which are higher or lower than usual have been explained by the state registrars as follows:
  • September 2011: Recent fluctuations in the number of birth registrations in the Australian Capital Territory and the high number of death registrations in New South Wales this quarter were queried with the respective Registries. Initial information provided by the Registries indicate that these fluctuations may be the result of changes in processing rates.
  • June 2011: The Northern Territory Registry recorded higher than usual births registrations and lower than usual deaths registrations in the June quarter 2011. The Registry advised that in the lead up to the end of the financial year they processed as many registrations as possible. However there were delays in getting Medical Certificates of Cause of Death from some hospitals - an issue which the Registry believes is now resolved.
  • March 2011: The Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi had major impacts on Queensland. The Registry experienced disruptions to the lodgement and processing of registrations early in the March quarter 2011 but caught up with backlogs by the end of the quarter. It is expected that the impacts of these natural disasters on many communities, on various industries, on infrastructure and the rebuilding thereof is likely to have demographic impacts in Queensland.
  • March 2011: Victoria recorded a comparatively large increase in death registrations from the March quarter 2010 to the March quarter 2011. This was attributed to unusually low death registration numbers in the March quarter of 2010 due to human resourcing issues which resulted in a delay in processing registrations.
  • March 2011: On 15 December 2010 a boat (formally known as a suspected illegal entry vessel) carrying asylum seekers sank in Australian territorial waters off Christmas Island and 30 people died in the incident. These deaths were registered in the first quarter of 2011 by the WA Registry as deaths of overseas residents with an imputed usual residence of WA although they were never officially registered as having arrived in Australia. This anomaly leads to a statistical undercount in the ERP of 30 persons. Ultimately, this anomaly will be accounted for in the intercensal discrepancy when the ERP is finalised (for further information on intercensal discrepancy see Glossary).

12 Concerns have been raised with the accuracy of the NSW births counts in recent years. In response to these concerns the ABS, in conjunction with the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, has undertaken an investigation which has led to the identification of an ABS systems processing error. The ABS acknowledges that this has resulted in previous undercounts of births in NSW. Data for the September quarter 2011 have been corrected to ensure that the preliminary rebased estimated resident population for NSW is correct. The ABS will also ensure data for the March and June quarters 2011 are corrected for the upcoming publication Births, Australia (cat. no. 3301.0). Further investigation will be undertaken into NSW births data for previous reference periods and action will be taken where required.

Net overseas migration

13 According to recommendations of the United Nations, an international migrant is defined as "any person who changes his or her country of usual residence" (United Nations 1998). For the purposes of estimating net overseas migration (NOM), and thereby Australia's official ERP counts, a person is regarded as a usual resident if they have been (or expected to be) residing in Australia for a period of 12 months or more. As such, NOM and ERP estimates include all people, regardless of nationality, citizenship or legal status, who usually live in Australia, with the exception of foreign diplomatic personnel and their families.

14 Conceptually, the term NOM is based on an international traveller's duration of stay being in or out of Australia for 12 months or more. It is the difference between the number of incoming travellers who stay in Australia for 12 months or more and are added to the population (NOM arrivals) and the number of outgoing travellers who leave Australia for 12 months or more and are subtracted from the population (NOM departures). With the introduction of the improved methods for estimating NOM, this 12 month period does not have to be continuous and is measured over a 16 month reference period. For example, whether a traveller is in or out of the population is determined by their exact duration of stay in or away from Australia over the subsequent 16 months after arrival or departure.

15 The ABS developed and introduced an improved method, called the '12/16 month rule' methodology, for estimating NOM. It has been used in calculating Australia's official ERP since September quarter 2006. The '12/16 month rule' methodology is a result of reviewing the treatment of temporary migrants (both long-term and short-term) who are away from or resident in Australia for a period of 12 months or more.

16 The current NOM estimation methods employ a '12/16 month rule' where the traveller can be added or subtracted from NOM if they have stayed in or been absent from Australia for a period of 12 months or more over a 16 month period. This period of 12 months does not have to be continuous. Although a traveller states their intended duration of stay on a passenger card, for NOM purposes the ABS now measures an individual's actual travel behaviour.

17 For further information on the improvements to NOM estimation and changes to the revision schedule for NOM, see the Information Paper: Improving Net Overseas Migration Estimation, Mar 2010 (cat. no. 3412.0.55.001). For further information on the '12/16 month rule' methodology see the Technical Note: '12/16 month rule' Methodology for Calculating Net Overseas Migration from September quarter 2006 onwards in Migration, Australia, 2009-10 (cat. no. 3412.0). For more detailed information, see:
Final NOM estimates

18 It is with the final NOM estimates that the '12/16 month rule' can be fully applied. A traveller's actual duration of stay can only be calculated when data on overseas movements become available for the 16 months following a reference period. Final NOM estimation methods use ERP flags to determine if a traveller, through their actual duration of stay in or out of Australia, should be included or excluded from NOM estimates and consequently ERP estimates.

Preliminary NOM estimates

19 Preliminary estimates of NOM are required five to six months after the reference quarter for the production of quarterly estimates of the population of Australia, and the states and territories. At that time, complete traveller histories for the 16 months following a reference quarter cannot be produced. Migration adjustments are calculated from changes in behaviour from final estimates one year earlier for the same groups of travellers. These migration adjustments are applied to travellers who are grouped according to their 'initial category of travel', age, country of citizenship and state/territory of usual/intended residence. The adjustments account for differences between their intended duration of stay and their actual duration of stay.

20 Preliminary estimates using the improved method for estimating NOM using a 'two year ago' propensity model were used in official ABS population estimates from September quarter 2006 until June quarter 2008. Since September quarter 2008 a 'one year ago' propensity model has been used.

Diplomatic personnel

21 Australia's ERP and estimates of NOM include all people, regardless of nationality or citizenship, who usually live in Australia, with the exception of foreign diplomatic personnel and their families. Therefore, foreign diplomatic personnel and their families are considered out of scope and were removed from NOM estimates from 1 July 2006. The previous methodology for estimating NOM was unable to exclude diplomatic personnel and their families.

Net interstate migration

22 Interstate migration is a key determinant of the accuracy of state and territory population estimates. Data on interstate migration cannot be directly estimated. Instead, post-censal estimates of interstate migration are modelled using administrative by-product data. Currently, the data used by the ABS are information on interstate changes of address advised to Medicare Australia and to the Department of Defence in the case of the military. The Medicare-based model used for generating post-censal estimates of interstate migration is largely superseded when new Census information becomes available.

23 When Census data on interstate movement become available, part of the process of rebasing ERPs for states and territories is the re-derivation of interstate migration for the intercensal period. The overall approach is to minimise state intercensal error using data analysed from the Census questions concerning an individual's place of residence one year ago, five years ago and on Census night. When new Census data are available, interstate migration estimates for the intercensal period are replaced with estimates derived from Census data on place of usual residence five years ago if these reduce intercensal error. These estimates are then scaled to sum to zero at the Australian level. A similar process is carried out for the year prior to the Census, using Census data on place of usual residence one year ago. The difference between the original interstate migration estimates and the rebased estimates is apportioned across all quarters, movement categories, ages and sex categories in the intercensal period in order to minimise quarterly change.

24 Changes to the model with updated expansion factors have been applied to interstate migration estimates from September quarter 2006 onwards and include the revision of preliminary estimates already published. The migration model is essentially the same as the model used to estimate interstate migration for 2001 to 2006. It includes updated expansion factors that have been calculated using the latest data available, including Census data and additional Medicare data used to help measure multiple movers (people who may have moved more than once during the year prior to the 2006 Census). Expansion factors are used to account for an under coverage of Medicare data by various ages and sex. The model includes the following characteristics:
  • Medicare data lagged by three months (both for calculating expansion factors and for estimating progressive quarters of interstate migration);
  • smoothed inputs used to produce expansion factors (ie: Census, Medicare & multiple movers data were smoothed);
  • capping applied to expansion factors (in contrast to the 2001-06 method);
  • expansion factors applied to males aged 17 to 30 years and females aged 17 to 25 years (this differs to the age range used in the 2001-06 method); and
  • no smoothing applied to the expansion factors.

25 For more detailed information on the changes to the model see Information Paper: Review of Interstate Migration Method, Mar 2009 (cat. no. 3106.0.55.001).

26 Due to the fact that the Medicare data source is an indirect measure of interstate migration, the post-censal quarterly estimates of interstate migration have long been considered the weakest measure of a component of population change at the state and territory level. For further information on the process of estimating interstate migration and the administrative data used, see:

Defence force adjustment

27 Medicare theoretically covers all Australian usual residents as well as those non-Australian residents granted temporary registration. However, there are a range of Australian usual residents who do not access the Medicare system, primarily due to access to alternative health services. One group is the military. As such, estimates of interstate migration produced from the interstate migration model described in the information paper Information Paper: Review of Interstate Migration Method, Mar 2009 (cat. no. 3106.0.55.001) are adjusted to compensate for defence force movements not covered by Medicare. These adjustments are estimated using counts of defence force personnel by age, sex and state/territory, obtained from the Department of Defence, with 70% of any change in quarterly defence numbers assumed to be due to interstate migration not otherwise covered by the model.


28 Estimates of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population are experimental in that the standard approach to population estimation is not possible because satisfactory annual data on births, deaths and internal migration are not generally available. Furthermore, there is significant intercensal volatility in census counts of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, thus adding to the problem of estimating the true Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. This volatility can in part be attributed to changes to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population that cannot be attributed to natural increase or interstate migration. As a result, a method based on the use of life tables is used to produce time series data. Projections of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population are based on the 2006 Census. Series A of the projections assumes declining fertility, increasing paternity, constant net interstate migration, zero net overseas migration and constant life expectancy at birth. Series B assumes declining fertility, increasing paternity, constant net interstate migration, zero net overseas migration and increasing life expectancy at birth. For further details see Experimental Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 1991 to 2021 (cat. no. 3238.0).


29 Persons arriving in, or departing from, Australia provide information in the form of incoming and outgoing passenger cards. Incoming persons also provide information in visa applications (apart from people travelling as Australian or New Zealand (NZ) citizens). These and other information available to the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) serve as a source for statistics of overseas arrivals and departures (OAD).

30 In July 1998, DIAC revised the incoming and outgoing passenger cards and associated procedures as well as computer systems. Following these changes, some questions on the passenger cards were not compulsory and answers to these questions were not checked by Customs officers. The question on marital status was deleted. Data on marital status are now derived from visa applications (only for certain visa classes) and are therefore not available for Australian or NZ citizens. The changes also affect the data for 'previous country of residence' which is imputed for Australian and NZ citizens. For more information see the May 1998 issue of Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia (cat. no. 3401.0). Since July 1998, there have been additional minor changes to both incoming and outgoing passenger cards.

31 From July 2001, DIAC adopted a new passenger card processing system which involved electronic imaging of passenger cards and intelligent character recognition of the data stored in the images. This process has yielded several improvements to the processing of passenger card data, most notably the detailed information about missing values. There have also been several changes to data quality. Further information on these changes is provided in Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia (cat. no. 3401.0).


32 Overseas arrivals and departures statistics relate to the number of movements of travellers rather than the number of travellers (i.e. multiple movements of individual persons during a given reference period are each counted separately). The statistics exclude the movements of operational air and ships' crew, of transit passengers who pass through Australia but are not cleared for entry, and of passengers on pleasure cruises commencing and finishing in Australia. Similarly, these statistics exclude unauthorised arrivals.

33 For more information, see Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia (cat. no. 3401.0).


34 The ABS has improved the measure of net overseas migration by expanding the Australian residence criteria from a 12/12 months rule to a 12/16 months rule. This has implications for the measurement of residents temporarily overseas (RTOs) due to the change in residence criteria mentioned above. A final measure of RTOs can only be obtained 21 months after Census night, when actual traveller behaviour, and each traveller's true residence status on Census night (according to 12/16 month rule) can be observed. For further information on the improved measure of net overseas migration see:


35 Population projections presented in this publication are not predictions or forecasts. They are an assessment of what would happen to Australia's population if the assumed levels of components of population change - births, deaths and migration - were to hold for the next 50-100 years.

36 The ERP at June 2007 is the base for the projections series. The three series presented in this publication, and their assumptions are as follows:

37 Series A - assumes the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) will reach 2.0 babies per woman by 2021 and then remain constant, life expectancy at birth will continue to increase until 2056 (reaching 93.9 years for males and 96.1 years for females), NOM will reach 220,000 by 2011 and then remain constant, and high flows of interstate migration.

38 Series B - assumes the TFR will decrease to 1.8 babies per woman by 2021 and then remain constant, life expectancy at birth will continue to increase each year until 2011 after which mortality improvement will decline until 2056 (reaching 85.0 years for males and 88.0 years for females), NOM will be held constant at 180,000 per year throughout the projection period, and medium flows of interstate migration.

39 Series C - assumes the TFR will decrease to 1.6 babies per woman by 2021 and then remain constant, life expectancy at birth will continue to increase each year until 2011 after which mortality improvement will decline until 2056 (reaching 85.0 years for males and 88.0 years for females), NOM will decrease to 140,000 per year by 2011 and then remain constant, and low flows of interstate migration.

40 For additional series and information (e.g. age, sex, states/territories and capital cities/balances of state), see Population Projections, Australia, 2006 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0).


41 The ABS uses a propensity method to project numbers of households, families and persons in different living arrangements. The method identifies propensities (proportions) from the Census of Population and Housing for people to belong to different living arrangement types. Trends observed in the propensities over the last four censuses are assumed to continue into the future, and applied to a projected population (see Series B, Population Projections, Australia, 2006 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0)). Numbers of households and families are then derived from the projected living arrangements of the population.

42 Data presented in table 20 are not intended as predictions or forecasts, but are illustrations of growth and change in the numbers of households which would occur if the assumptions about future trends in living arrangements were to prevail over the projection period. For more information see Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2006 to 2031 (cat. no. 3236.0).


43 The Census and Statistics Act, 1905 provides the authority for the ABS to collect statistical information, and requires that statistical output shall not be published or disseminated in a manner that is likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation. This requirement means that the ABS must take care and make assurances that any statistical information about individual respondents cannot be derived from published data.

44 Some techniques used to guard against identification or disclosure of confidential information in statistical tables are suppression of sensitive cells, and random adjustments to cells with very small values. To protect confidentiality within this publication, some cell values may have been suppressed and are not available for publication (np) but included in totals where applicable. In these cases, data may not sum to totals due to the confidentialisation of individual cells.


45 In this publication, population estimates and their components have sometimes been rounded. Rounded figures and unrounded figures should not be assumed to be accurate to the last digit shown. Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between sums of component items and totals.


46 ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated: without it, the wide range of statistics published in the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.


47 Other ABS products which may be of interest to users include:


48 As well as the statistics included in this and related publications, the ABS may have other relevant data available on request. Inquiries should be made to the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.

49 ABS products and publications are available free of charge from the ABS website <https://www.abs.gov.au>. Click on Statistics to gain access to the full range of ABS statistical and reference information.

50 Statistics of overseas arrivals and departures and related data are also published regularly by DIAC <http://www.immi.gov.au> (see the Department’s quarterly publications, Immigration Update and The Outlook for Net Overseas Migration) and by Tourism Research Australia (on international travel and tourism) <http://www.ret.gov.au/tourism/research>.