In the 2021 Census, the number of people counted as usual residents of New South Wales (NSW) was 8.1 million. This was up from 7.5 million in 2016. Fifty years ago, in 1971, the Census counted 4.3 million people. In 2021, almost two-thirds of people in NSW lived in the capital city area of Greater Sydney (5.2 million).
Snapshot of New South Wales
High level summary data for New South Wales in 2021
The median age (AGEP) for people from NSW has been on the rise. In 1971, the median age was 28 years. The median age was 38 years in 2016 and 39 years in 2021. The Australian median age was 38 years in 2021.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
In the 2021 Census, 278,000 people identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin (INGP) in NSW, making up 3.4% of the NSW population. This was an increase from 216,000 counted in 2016, and higher than the Australian percentage of 3.2% in 2021.
For more information, see New South Wales: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population summary.
Country of birth
Most people in NSW were born in Australia (BPLP). The proportion of people who were born overseas has increased over time. In 1971, 19.1% of people were born overseas. This increased to 27.6% in 2016, and 29.3% in 2021.
In 2021, the top five countries of birth in NSW were:
- Australia (65.4%)
- China (3.1%)
- England (2.9%)
- India (2.6%)
- New Zealand (1.5%)
In 2021, most people in NSW only used English at home (67.6%) (LANP). This was down from 68.5% in 2016.
After English the most common languages used were Mandarin (3.4%), Arabic (2.8%), Cantonese (1.8%) and Vietnamese (1.5%).
In 2021, the main religious affiliation (RELP) in NSW was Christianity (47.6%). This proportion has decreased over time as people reporting non-Christian religions and no religious affiliation have increased. In 2016, Christian affiliation was 55.2%, and in 1971 it was 88.4%.
In 2021, 12.1% of people in NSW were affiliated with a non-Christian religion. The most common were Islam (4.3%), Hinduism (3.4%) and Buddhism (2.8%).
The percentage of people who identified as having no religious affiliation was 33.2% in 2021. This was an increase from 25.5% in 2016, and 5.5% in 1971.
Household and families
Households are getting smaller in NSW. In 2021, the average number of people who lived in each household in NSW was 2.6, a decrease from 3.2 people in 1971.
In 2021, 71.1% of households were family households. This was a slight decrease from 72.0% in 2016.
The most common type of family in NSW was families with children. In 2021, 44.7% of families were couples with children and 15.8% were one parent families.
Based on place of enumeration. Excludes visitor only and other non-classifiable households.
Source: Household composition (HHCD)
The 2021 Census counted just over 3 million occupied private dwellings across NSW. This was an increase from 2.8 million in 2016. In 1971 there were 1.4 million occupied private dwellings in NSW.
In 2021 most people lived in separate houses (65.6%), rather than flats, apartments or other dwelling types. This was a decrease from 66.4% in 2016. Over this time the proportion of people who lived in flats or apartments increased from 19.9% to 21.7%.
In 2021 64.0% of households in NSW were homeowners (owned outright or with a mortgage). This was a slight drop from 64.5% in 2016.
Refers to occupied private dwellings and excludes visitor only and other non-classifiable households. Owned with a mortgage includes dwellings being purchased under a shared equity scheme. Rented excludes dwellings being occupied rent-free. Other tenure type and tenure type not stated represent the remaining 3.4%.
Source: Tenure type (TEND)
For more detailed state specific data see the Snapshot of New South Wales data cube, available for download on the Snapshot of Australia page.