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By Glenn Capuano

Australia’s population growth hits another record but may be slowing

The new figures for the Australian and state population in December 2023 are out and make for interesting reading.

The population stood at 26,966,789 people on 31 December 2023.

This was an increase of 651,200 people over the calendar year 2023.

That's the highest calendar-year growth ever recorded in numerical terms.

In percentage terms it was 2.5%, which is high, but not a record – it's harder to record a record percentage growth as the population gets larger.

The growth to the end of the calendar year was even a little higher than the 644,500 recorded for the financial year ended June 30th 2023 (also revised up slightly in this edition).

The financial year is the most important figure as we normally record all the local populations on June 30th.

However, state, territory and national populations are updated quarterly.


December quarterly estimate suggests overseas migration may be slowing

The last quarterly estimate shows just a slight indication of a slowing down of the prodigious growth.

Over the year, there was a natural increase (births minus deaths) of 103,947, and a net overseas migration (NOM; in-migration minus out-migration) of 547,267.

So in the last year, Australia's population growth was 84% due to overseas migration.

In the last quarter of the year, migration fell to 107,261 people – that would be an annualised rate of about 430,000, or around 100,000 below the annual figure.

That would still be enough to make it the highest migration year recorded before 2023, so it's still very high – just not quite as high as the previous quarters.

Overseas migration has been playing "catch-up" for the last couple of years since the borders reopened, following low migration in 2020 and negative migration in 2021.

We think the long-term migration trend will be closer to 300,000 p.a. (still historically high).

Trends across the states and territories

Here are the state and territory figures:

State/Territory ERP December 2023 Change over previous year % change over previous year Natural increase Net overseas migration Net interstate migration
NSW    8,434,754 185,459 2.25% 32,518 184,619 -31,658
Vic 6,905,978 186,491 2.78% 26,591 160,175 -275
Qld 5,528,292 141,378 2.62% 21,845 87,938 +31,595
SA 1,866,318 30,222 1.65% 3,010 28,501 -1,289
WA     2,927,888 93,771 3.31% 14,559 68,503 +10,709
Tas 574,705 2,353 0.41% 523 5,101 -3,271
NT 253,634 2,386 0.95% 2,071 4,272 -3,957
ACT 470,232 9,106 1.97% 2,821 8,119  -1,834
Australia 26,966,789 651,214 2.47% 103,947 547,267

Source: ABS, National, State and Territory Population - December 2023

All states and territories recorded positive growth for the year.

Interestingly, only two places – Western Australia and Queensland – recorded positive interstate migration for the year.

Queensland is always positive, and WA fluctuates depending on the fortunes of the mining industry.

WA also recorded the fastest population growth as a percentage, at 3.31%.

Everywhere had positive overseas migration for the year, but it was especially high in NSW and WA, both recording their highest on record.

Victoria was also very high but fell more in the last quarter to be below the figure recorded for the financial year 2022–23.

Tasmania has returned to relatively slow growth which has typified most of the last two decades, after being much higher during COVID.

The state recorded its highest-ever overseas migration in 2023 (more than 5,000 for the first time), but lost nearly as many interstates.

While the pandemic was impacting migration, Tasmania was having strongly positive interstate migration, but now many are leaving for the mainland again.

South Australia has also fallen back to negative interstate migration, but not large numbers.

It also turned positive in the pandemic, but more often records a net outflow to other states.

Victoria, which lost a lot to interstate during the pandemic, is back to approximately even - about as many people leave as come in from interstate.

About Glenn Capuano Glenn is a Census expert working at .id Informed Decisions. After ten years working at the ABS, Glenn's deep knowledge of the Census has been a crucial input in the development of our community profiles. These tools help everyday people uncover the rich and important stories about our communities that are often hidden deep in the Census data. Visit .id Informed Decisions
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