Demographic data for the December 2015 quarter was released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
At the end of 2015, the national population was estimated to be 23,940,278 persons having increased by 1.4% or 326,073 persons over the year.
Although the population continues to increase at a fairly rapid pace, the rate of population growth has been trending lower since it peaked at 2.2% over the year to December 2008.
Nationally, population growth is driven by two factors: migration and natural increase (births minus deaths).
Over the 12 months to December 2015, the national population increased by 148,935 persons due to natural increase and by 177,138 persons due to net overseas migration.
Net overseas migration has increased a little over the quarter but has fallen dramatically since it peaked at 315,687 persons over the 12 months to December 2008.
Natural increase is -1.0% lower over the year while net overseas migration is -0.5% lower.
Looking at state population data, New South Wales and Victoria have recorded the greatest increases in population over the past year, up by 106,116 and 109,830 persons respectively.
Across the other states and territories the annual population increases have been recorded at: 59,714 persons in Queensland, 11,180 persons in South Australia, 30,980 persons in Western Australia, 2,110 in Tasmania, 840 persons in Northern Territory and 5,271 persons in the Australian Capital Territory.
The above chart shows the rate of population growth over the year and it shows that not only has Victoria seen the greatest increase in population over the year it also has the fastest rate of growth of all states and territories.
Over the past year, Victoria has accounted for 33.7% of the total increase in the national population (more than a third) which is a record-high for that state.
Elsewhere, South Australia accounted for 3.4% of national population growth (lowest since March 2002) and Western Australia accounted for 9.5% of population growth (lowest since December 2002).
The above chart highlights that historically either New South Wales or Queensland has typically accounted for the highest proportion of population increases.
Since the financial crisis, New South Wales and Victoria have accounted for increasing proportions of national population growth due to their stronger economies and the subsequent lure of job opportunities in Sydney and Melbourne.
At the state level there are two components of migration; net overseas migration and net interstate migration.
It is important to look at how the trends across each category of migration impact on population growth in each state.
Throughout 2015 almost three quarters of net overseas migration occurred in either New South Wales (38.6%) or Victoria (34.2%).
The chart shows that annual net overseas migration to New South Wales and Victoria is continuing to rise (albeit at a moderate pace) but is falling elsewhere.
The 34.2% of national new overseas migration for Victoria over the year was a record-high.
Queensland accounted for just 11.0% of net overseas migration over the year, its lowest share since March 1991 and well below the 20.1% of national net overseas migration the state attracted in March 2009.
Western Australian net overseas migration accounted for just 8.2% of national net overseas migration, a far cry from its recent peak of 23.9% in September 2012.
As the mining boom has faded and the New South Wales and Victorian economies have strengthened over recent years, more migrants have been choosing to settle in these two states and fewer are settling in Queensland and Western Australia.
Victoria and Queensland are the only two states that have recorded positive net interstate migration over the 2015 calendar year with net interstate migration cancelling itself out at a national level.
Over the year, net interstate migration was recorded at +13,049 persons in Victoria, which is an historic high.
In Queensland, following a long decline in net interstate migration, the number of migrants crossing to border into Queensland has started to turn, recorded at +8,326 over the past year its highest level since March 2013.
Across the other states and territories, the losses from net interstate migration have been recorded at:
-8,749 in New South Wales, -4,967 in South Australia, -4,313 in Western Australia, -79 in Tasmania, -2,732 in Northern Territory and -535 in Australian Capital Territory.
The net outflow in New South Wales is the largest since March 2014, South Australia’s outflow is the greatest since September 1996 and Western Australia’s outflow is the greatest on record.
Tasmania’s net outflow is the lowest since June 2011, the Northern Territory’s is the lowest since December 2013 as is the Australian Capital Territory’s.
Although population growth is continuing to trend lower, it is becoming more evident that growth is much greater in the states with stronger economies (NSW and Vic).
It is clear that the economic strength of a state is key to attracting more residents not just domestically but also internationally.
It also looks that as housing becomes increasingly unaffordable in the two capital cities of NSW and Vic, interstate migration into Queensland (the third largest state) is beginning to pick-up again.
I would suggest this is being driven by an improving employment market accompanied by a much more affordable housing market.
The more up-to-date overseas arrivals and departures data indicates that net overseas migration is likely to continue to slow over the coming quarters.
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