Bums on seats – what’s really happening to Australia’s population

Three minute read. 28856067 - australia high resolution population concept

When looking at population action, it appears that it is all now happening in Victoria and New South Wales.

Last year, Victoria attracted 36% of Australia’s population growth, followed by New South Wales with 33%.

Queensland got a 20% share and Western Australia just 8%.

These four states account for 97% of the country’s population growth.

Bums on seats rose by some 337,000 people last year.

Five years ago, the country grew by 51,000 more people – up 388,000 during 2011/12 – but the growth was far more evenly spread, with the big four states still dominating, but they all took about an equal share of between 22% and 24%.

See chart 1.


The reason for the overall fall in national population growth over the last five years is due to fewer overseas migrants settling down under.  

Natural increase – that’s births over deaths – has remained steady in recent years.

Now, when it comes to interstate migration, things have changed a fair bit over the past five years.

New South Wales continues to lose population to Queensland and now Victoria, but a lot less than it used to.

Five years ago, 18,000 people left NSW. 

Last year it was just 11,000.

Queensland’s interstate migration figures have improved – they have doubled over the last year – to now account for 18% of the state’s 65,000 population increase during fiscal 2016.

See chart 2.

Yet, bigger changes in interstate movements have taken place in Victoria and Western Australia.

Five years ago, very few folk moved from interstate to Victoria, yet last year 17,000 people did so.

Western Australia is experiencing the reverse trend with 11,000 moving to WA during 2011-12.

Last year 8,000 people left the state.

So, what does this mean?

1. People move to where there are jobs first; all other factors are secondary. population

2. Jobs are being created in new pulse points – revisit here.

3. Rising population growth isn’t always a good thing, especially when most of the current moves are to already overcrowded, and often poorly serviced, urban areas.

In many cases, Australia’s population growth is like a Ponzi scheme.  

For more, revisit this post.

For mine, a decline in our rate of population growth, at this stage of the cycle, is a good thing.

We desperately need a national population/housing plan.

We should be directing migration to where we want it to go.

And this plan is needed now.

Please do something about this, Malcolm!

Taking a longer term view, Australia does need more bums on seats.

We need a younger demographic to buy stuff; pay taxes and support us oldies. city family urban suburb

One of Australia’s saving graces is that it has enjoyed a high rate of population growth over recent decades.

This will hold us in good stead – well, better off than many other developed countries – in coming decades.

It is just that too much of the current population growth is now concentrating in a select few areas.

This is like a pressure cooker.

We can do something about it.


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Michael Matusik


Michael is director of independent property advisory Matusik Property Insights. He is independent, perceptive and to the point; has helped over 550 new residential developments come to fruition and writes his insightful Matusik Missive

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