Australia’s population growth has declined sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 1.1 million fewer people making up our population by 2031 than previously expected, according to the first annual Population Statement released today.
The Statement is the first of its kind to be produced by the federal government’s Centre for Population and provides the most comprehensive analysis of population trends and projections in our history.
The Statement shows population growth in 2020-21 will be the slowest since World War I. Negative net migration is also forecast for the first time in 75 years this year and next.
Australia’s population growth is projected to rebound strongly by 2023-24, but not return to previously expected levels of growth until 2027-28.
Australia’s population is expected to reach 28 million in 2028-29, three years later than would have been reached in the absence of COVID-19.
Melbourne is forecast to overtake Sydney as Australia’s largest capital city in 2026-27. This is primarily due to Sydney’s continuing slowing population growth, with negative growth now forecast for the first time since 1952-53.
This follows evidence that more people will leave Victoria, and Melbourne in particular, relative to other jurisdictions in the short term due to the second wave of COVID-19 and intense extended lockdown.
The impact of COVID-19 and the associated migration restrictions have the smallest impact on Queensland’s population growth, with strong interstate migration into Queensland expected. South Australia’s population growth will be zero this year before recovering in subsequent years.
The Statement finds that whilst Sydney and Melbourne will have the sharpest fall in population growth in the short term due to the slowing of overseas migration, population growth will pick up again.
Population growth in regional Australia will be less affected than in our capital cities and we are already seeing early evidence that more people are choosing to call regional Australia home, disrupting long-term trends.
Capital cities had a net loss of 10,500 people to regional areas in the quarter to June 2020, the largest net quarterly move to the regions on record. This is more than double the average observed over the last ten years, and supports the Government’s policy aim of a more evenly balanced population distribution.
The Statement also shows that COVID-19 will be partially responsible for the faster ageing of Australia’s population, as Australians put off having children and fewer young migrants enter Australia in the short term due to international border restrictions.
The median age in Australia is now projected to be 40 in 2031. The pre-COVID-19 estimate was 39.
The slower population growth and faster ageing will directly impact our economic growth.
This underscores the importance of the Government’s unprecedented $507 billion COVID-19 support and recovery package, which has provided timely support to keep Australians in work, and businesses in business.
This includes record levels of investment into infrastructure. While population growth in our big cities has declined, infrastructure investment has increased providing an opportunity for these cities to catch up on infrastructure needs.
The Government is committed to ensuring Australia emerges from the pandemic with a stronger, more resilient economy.
The first annual Population Statement is available at www.population.gov.au.
Background to the Population Statement
The Population Statement is produced by the Australian Government’s Centre for Population which was established in July 2019.
The Statement is the first of its kind and provides the most comprehensive analysis and projections of Australia’s population.
Developed in consultation with states and territories, and the Australian Local Government Association, the Statement examines how Australia’s population will change over the next decade, in particular highlighting the effects of COVID-19 on population growth and distribution.
Access to high-quality, transparent and easy-to-understand population data is now more important than ever.
Understanding the vastly different dynamics of our states and territories, and cities and regions is crucial for effective planning and decision-making. This is true for both the public and private sectors in areas like infrastructure, planning, housing, and access to the essential services Australian rely on.
The Statement also delivers on a key commitment made by the Prime Minister, state and territory ministers, and the Australian Local Government Association, as agreed in the National Population and Planning Framework in February 2020.
Significant progress in aligning population projections across all states and territories was also announced today, with a national agreement achieved on five core principles. This will ensure greater consistency and transparency of population projections across the country, delivering on another key element of the Framework.