50 years of estimated resident population

An overview of Australia's population change over the past 50 years.

Released
16/12/2021

Key Statistics

  • The estimated resident population time series spans 50 years from 1971 to 2021.
  • Australia’s population almost doubled in the past 50 years, from 13.1 million in 1971 to 25.7 million in 2021.
  • Fertility and mortality rates declined over the past 50 years, contributing to an ageing population.
  • The arrival of younger overseas migrants partly offset the ageing population.

Population growth

Australia’s population almost doubled in the past 50 years, from 13,067,265 in 1971 to 25,739,256 in 2021. The average annual growth rate during this time (1.4%) was higher than many developed countries. Australia’s strong population growth was driven mainly by natural increase (births minus deaths, 60% of growth) before the turn of the millennium, and since then overseas migration was the major contributor (57%) until international borders closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Source: Population growth (annual %) - OECD members | Data (worldbank.org)

Age and sex structure

Australia’s population has aged in the past 50 years. The median age increased by more than 10 years, from 27.5 years in 1971 to 38.2 years in 2021. Population ageing was the result of declining fertility and lower mortality: people are living longer and having fewer babies. The arrival of younger overseas migrants, and their subsequent children, partly offset the ageing population.

Natural increase

Natural increase is the difference between births and deaths. In the past 50 years, natural increase was relatively steady, with declines in fertility and mortality rates. The total fertility rate fell from 2.9 babies per woman in 1971 to 1.6 babies per woman in the year to June 2021. The standardised death rate fell from 12.7 deaths per 1,000 people in the year to June 1971 to 4.7 in the year to June 2021.

Net overseas migration

Net overseas migration is the difference between overseas arrivals and overseas departures, and was a strong contributor to population growth in Australia in the past 50 years. Net overseas migration more than tripled from 103,600 in 1971 to a peak of 300,000 in the year to June 2009. Net overseas migration has declined since 2009, particularly so during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

 

Notable use of estimated resident population

The estimated resident population time series spans 50 years from 1971 to 2021. Estimated resident population, as Australia’s official population estimate, provides insight into the composition of Australia’s population and how that has changed over time. Estimated Resident Population underpins critical activities to our democracy and important policies, such as determining the number of seats in Parliament, providing the denominator for calculating COVID-19 vaccination rates, and informing the distribution of Goods and Services Tax (GST) funds between states and territories.

Find out more about Estimated Resident Population in 50 years of Australia’s population in 50 seconds .