Every stat tells a story.

Two million more people at home on Census night – COVID-19 data insight

Media Release

The 2021 Census counted two million more people (2,178,094) at home on Census night than in 2016. With COVID-19 restrictions in place across the nation on Census night, 96 per cent of people counted were at home rather than travelling.

This means more families and households were together in the data collected, which presents a unique picture of Australian homes and families.

The COVID-19 pandemic may also have contributed to how Australians completed their Census. The Census household response rate increased from 95.1 per cent in 2016 to 96.1 per cent in 2021, and the percentage of households completing online increased to nearly four out of every five forms received (79 per cent).

The impact of COVID-19 restrictions and limits on overseas travel can also be seen, with a decrease of more than 80 per cent in the number of overseas visitors counted in the Census, from 315,531 in 2016 to 61,860 in 2021.

While Australia welcomed over one million new migrants (1,020,007) since 2017, most arrived before the COVID-19 pandemic. Census data on year of arrival in Australia shows that more than 850,000 people arrived (853,887) over the years 2017, 2018 and 2019. By contrast, during the 2020 and 2021 pandemic years, the arrival numbers declined to 165,000 people (166,125).  

Dr David Gruen AO, Australian Statistician, said “The Census was conducted at an unprecedented time in Australia’s history and provides a unique snapshot of the population during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is different from previous Censuses.

The Census also shows the population under varying lockdown restrictions across the country. Deeper insights on the impacts of COVID-19 will be available in the second release of Census data in October. We expect the second release data will show some very interesting changes and patterns in mobility of the population between Censuses, including employment arrangements, journey to work, occupation and internal migration.”

In delivering a safe and responsive Census during the global pandemic, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) adapted its approach to operate in a COVID safe way. Most people completed the Census online with no contact from the ABS and all Census staff operated under a COVID safe plan. The plan followed guidelines from federal, state and territory governments to keep the community safe.

Overall, an increase in the use of the Census online form provides higher quality data and reduces the physical element of completing a paper form or having contact with an ABS Field Officer.

For further information about 2021 Census data, tune into the 2021 Census data release launch on 28 June at 10am AEST at http://www.abs.gov.au/census/events or explore the data at www.abs.gov.au/census/find-census-data.

Media notes

  • For media requests and interviews, contact the ABS Media Team on media@abs.gov.au or 1300 175 070.
  • Further information on 2021 Census is available in the Census media backgrounders.
  • When reporting ABS data you must attribute the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or the ABS) as the source.
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