Australia’s population growth close to zero

Media Release

The impact of international border closures due to COVID-19 on overseas migration resulted in Australia’s population growth slowing to a near stand-still in the year to March 2021, according to the latest figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

ABS Demography Director Beidar Cho said: “Australia’s population grew by just over 0.1 per cent (35,700 people) to 25.7 million, in contrast to a growth of 1.5 per cent we had in the 2019 calendar year. This is the first full year of data reflecting the impacts of COVID-19 on Australia’s population. “

Population growth over the past 12 months was entirely due to natural increase (adding 131,000 people), while net overseas migration was negative (-95,300) over the period, the first time since 1946. This continues the recent shift from the long run trend of net overseas migration driving the majority of Australia’s population growth.

With 12 months of COVID-19 international travel restrictions in place, net overseas migration was down by 334,000 people compared with the previous year. Arrivals decreased more sharply (-81%) than departures (-45%) over the period.

Net overseas migration (-95,300) consisted of 115,000 overseas migration arrivals and 210,300 departures. Overseas movements were lowest in the June quarter of 2020 and highest in the December quarter.

There were 293,500 births and 162,500 deaths during this period. The resulting natural increase was down 4 per cent from the previous year and continues the trend of a gradual decline over the past 5 years, driven mainly by decreasing births.

For regional population estimates see Regional Population, Australia, available for free download from the ABS website.

Annual population change by state and territory
 Population at 31 Mar 2021 ('000)Change over previous year ('000)Change over previous year (%)
New South Wales8176.411.70.1
South Australia1771.72.70.2
Western Australia2675.815.20.6
Northern Territory247.01.20.5
Australian Capital Territory431.81.70.4

(a) Includes Other Territories comprising Jervis Bay Territory, Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Norfolk Island. 

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