Why slowing population growth is on the mind of all smart property investors at the moment

Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics warned our population growth is slowing.

Will this slowdown pose a risk to our economy and pull the rug out from under our property markets?

There is already a lot of talk about our property market peaking, our economy falling into recession and a property bubble bursting so let’s look at this with a Q & A session to see what’s going on:

What do the latest population figures show?

The ABS estimates our population grew to 23.7 million by the end of March, up by around 316,000 people, or 1.4 per cent, on the same period a year earlier.

Australia’s four most populous states accounted for a whopping 93.4% of Australia’s population growth over the year being:What do the latest population figures show

  • New South Wales increasing its total population to 7,597,000
  • Victoria (5,915,000),
  • Queensland (4,767,000) and
  • Western Australia (2,587,000)

Now I know that sounds like a lot of people coming to our shores, but this was the slowest population growth in almost a decade, with a steep fall in net overseas migration.

Why is our population growth slowing?

It’s mainly due to lower migration.

The ABS estimates that 173,100 more people migrated to Australia than left it over the year to March, down 16 per cent on the prior year.

Why is our population growth slowing

Source: Corelogic

However, migration was still the biggest contributor to population growth, with natural increase adding 142,900 people as the number of births eased and number of deaths rose slightly.

Has this got anything to do with the end of the mining boom?

Sure…the mining boom brought lots of new migrants to Australia and the figures show the impact that the mining investment slowdown is having on resources-focused Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Net overseas migration to Western Australia has dropped 71% over the past two years, while more people are leaving WA for other states than moving to it from other states for the first time in more than 10 years.

The Northern Territory is faring even worse, with population growth of only 0.2% its lowest in 11 years.

Those leaving WA and the NT were generally moving to Victoria and Queensland, which the ABS said are the only states experiencing a net gain from interstate migration.

The New South Wales population grew at the national average of 1.4 per cent, thanks to migrants coming from overseas.

Annual rate of population growth

 Source: Corelogic

Is slowing population growth a problem?

Before we get too worried it should still be noted that:

  • Australia’s population increased by 315,952 persons over the past year.
  • We still have one of the fastest growing populations among the advanced economies.
  • Population growth is well above the long term average of 256,801 per annum (but below the 15 year average of 1.5%)

Is slowing population growth a problem

Source: Corelogic

What are the economic implications?

The slowdown in population growth will certainly have significant economic ramifications.

Just about every economist, politician and business person is a great believer in a high rate of immigration and a Big Australia, but without an equivalent rate of job creation strong population growth is not good, since it results in rising unemployment rates with all of the associated problems.

So on the positive side, the Reserve Bank recently observed that it is one reason why the unemployment rate has remained in the low 6%, despite weak economic growth of just 2% over the year.

It is also likely our dollar will remain low, which could have 3 significant positive implications:

  1. We’ll have more overseas visitors coming to Australia as it will be cheaper for them. And that’s good for our economy.What are the economic implications
  2. Australians will find overseas travel considerably more expensive and will holiday more domestically – this is also good for our economy. And…
  3. Chinese investment capital will continue to pour onto our shores, underpinning our property markets. At these exchange rates our properties are cheap for them.

On the downside, slower population growth equals slower growth in consumption, meaning that we are unlikely to experience GDP at the 3% Australian businesses and households are more accustomed to.

This means interest rates will need to remain low to help stimulate our economy. Only last week the ANZ Bank predicted a further 2 cuts in interest rates early next year bringing the cash rate to 1.5%.

So what does all this mean for property?

Possibly the biggest impact from population growth undershooting expectations is that Australia’s recent housing boom may be building homes for people that never show up.

The latest building approvals figures suggest that we are planning to build over 200,000 dwellings per annum over the next year or two, or one for every 1.6 extra people at the current population growth rate.

Given that the average household size was 2.6 people in 2011, and is projected by the ABS to stay around those levels, unless things change Australia will building more new homes and apartments than it needs to house our growing population.

Depending on the supply and demand ratios in the individual property markets and segments around Australia, some locations may see a surplus supply of dwellings hit the market, putting downward pressure on prices.

With this in mind I would steer clear of the inner CBD, off the plan and the new house and land package segments of the market.

And I would only invest in those big capital cities where population growth is holding up.

The bottom line

The bottom lineWe are told that our new Federal Government is keen to to get the federal budget back into surplus but slower population growth and slower growth in real gross domestic product will make this harder.

At the same time some sectors of the property market will find themselves with a surplus of properties being built –  yet this happens every property cycle, doesn’t it?

Times are changing, and while some will get caught our strategic property investors will adapt and take advantage of our changing population and demographic trends.

Still not sure how much this will affect you?

If you’re looking for independent advice, no one can help you quite like the independent property investment strategists at Metropole.

Remember the multi award winning team of property investment strategists at Metropole have no properties to sell, so their advice is unbiased.

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned property investor, we would love to help you formulate an investment strategy or do a review of your existing portfolio, and help you take your property investment to the next level.
Please click here to organise a time for a chat. Or call us on 1300 20 30 30.

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Related article: The 5 Pillars of Smart Property Investing


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Michael is a director of Metropole Property Strategists who help their clients grow, protect and pass on their wealth through independent, unbiased property advice and advocacy. He's once again been voted Australia's leading property investment adviser and one of Australia's 50 most influential Thought Leaders. His opinions are regularly featured in the media. Visit Metropole.com.au

'Why slowing population growth is on the mind of all smart property investors at the moment' have 4 comments


    October 2, 2015 peter vella

    The net migration?????????? The government has not indicated any loosening or growth regarding new immigration,if anything the economy with start to find its new path which by all indication appears to be in sync with contraction……….the fact that banks are requesting LVR”S OF 20 TO 30% is more of a concern than migration…………..


      Michael Yardney

      October 2, 2015 Michael Yardney

      Why are LVR’s of 80% and 70% a concern? Don’t they protect the banking industry and stop people over committing?



    October 1, 2015 Jessica

    Great article Michael – a good assesment of what’s going on and what we can expect – will imigration increase in the future?


      Michael Yardney

      October 1, 2015 Michael Yardney

      Many more people want to immigrate to Australia than are currently allowed into our country. The government can turn onthe tap if it needs to and I see that happening again in the future


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