Australia’s population growth slowing

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has just released its latest population figures, and it shows Australia’s population growth rate for the 2010 calender year slowing to only 1.5%, 0.7% below the peak growth rate of 2.2% reached in the 2008 calender year.

Here’s the ABS media release  and summary data relating to the release:


Australia’s annual population growth rate slowed to 1.5% for the year ending December 2010, according to preliminary figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). This is down from a peak growth rate of 2.2% in the year ending December 2008.

Australia’s population reached 22,477,400 people at the end of December 2010, growing by 325,500 people over the year. This is down from the previous year where the population grew by 421,300 people, and is the lowest growth since the year ending December 2006 when an increase of 316,200 people was recorded.

Net overseas migration accounted for 53% of the growth for the year ending December 2010, with the remaining 47% due to natural increase (births minus deaths). Net overseas migration continued to decline to the end of December 2010. The preliminary net overseas migration estimate for the year ending December 2010 (171,100 people) was 35% lower than that for December 2009 (264,200 people).

Natural increase for the year ending December 2010 declined 2,800 people when compared to the previous year. This is due to a 2% increase in the number of registered deaths (143,500 deaths), while the number of registered births (297,900 births) remained steady.

Western Australia continued to record the fastest population growth rate at 2.1%, while both Tasmania and the Northern Territory recorded the slowest growth rate (0.8%).



  • The preliminary estimated resident population (ERP) of Australia at 31 December 2010 was 22,477,400 persons. This was an increase of 325,500 persons since 31 December 2009 and 69,700 persons since 30 September 2010.
  • The increase for the year ended 31 December 2010 was the lowest recorded since the year ended 31 December 2006 (316,200 persons).
  • The preliminary natural increase recorded for the year ended 31 December 2010 (154,400 persons) was 1.8%, or 2,800 persons, lower than the natural increase recorded for the year ended 31 December 2009 (157,200 persons).
  • The preliminary net overseas migration recorded for the year ended 31 December 2010 (171,100 persons) was 35%, or 93,100 persons, lower than the net overseas migration recorded for the year ended 31 December 2009 (264,200 persons).


  • Australia’s population grew by 1.5% during the year ended 31 December 2010. The growth rate has been declining since the peak of 2.2% for the year ended 31 December 2008 and was the lowest growth rate since the year ended 30 September 2006.
  • Natural increase and net overseas migration contributed 47% and 53% respectively to total population growth for the year ended 31 December 2010.
  • All states and territories experienced positive population growth for the year ended 31 December 2010. Western Australia recorded the fastest growth (2.1%) and Tasmania and the Northern Territory the slowest (both 0.8%).
Leith van Onselen
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  1. Few people bother to break down population change into its components and estimate their effects on housing.

    1. Births don’t add significantly to housing demand.

    2. Deaths usually occur among the elderly, and many elderly live alone. That means that 1 death will free up accommodation for more than 1 person, on average. I don’t know what the numbers are, but a very rough guess might be that every death will free up accommodation for 1.5 people. So our 143,500 deaths provided accommodation for about 212,250.

    3. Since we only received 171,100 migrants, we have significantly increased the housing supply relative to population.

    • Likewise, shouldn’t we compare these figures to the proportion of the population expected to move out, maybe 21-25?

      • Yes, they should. The main driver for housing demand is, and has been for some years, people born in the 1980s moving out of the parental home. Immigration has run second to that.

        I haven’t looked at the numbers recently, but I recall the birth rate in the mid-80s was about 240,000 per year. If they move out and form new households at an occupancy rate of 2.4 per household, then they create demand for about 100,000 new dwellings per year, which is well below the number being built. That would be reduced by the tendency of people that age to stay at home for longer these days, though presumably most will move out eventually, so that demand would simply be deferred.

        But this isn’t really my point. What I’m trying to say is: headline population growth does not determine demand for housing. It all depends on where the growth comes from. For example, one extreme case would be a population that had a high death rate, an even higher birth rate, and zero net immigration. It would be growing, but in such a way as to produce falling demand for housing. Depending on the circumstances, it could be that 20+ years later, that high birth rate will produce an increased demand for housing, even if the overall population is falling or static by the time.

        UE’s recent post on German housing makes this mistake. It compares the UK and Germany partly on the basis of having similar population growth, without going into the details.

  2. Awesome point Phil H!!!

    I would love someone to look into the assumptions used by HIA to project their 200,000 housing shortfall.

    Because recently population growth has dropped off as shown here, and we also have more cohabitation taking place.

    So surely if less people are coming to Oz and more people cramming into share houses etc…then the whole basis of their projections are totally wrong.

    Using their own projections to show that there is not a shortage would be GOLD…and case closed for one of the more damaging myths floating around.

    If you read this…you will puke!

    Basically…during the boom years people were living more and more by themselves, but as the article notes, that trend has already reversed with more group homes and kids not moving out and buying homes at 22 anymore.

    But rather than acknowledge that this proves the ‘shortage’ claim is very spurious, they claim this proves we still have a shortage but that we are adjusting to “get around it”.

    What a ridiculous claim by them…so when the trend for the ratio per house suits their narrative of a shortage of houses, they rely on the figures to make up bogus claims…but when the trend reverses they claim that the adjustments taking place are not a long-term solution blah blah blah…

    They can’t have it both ways!

    • Ive looked into the HIA “Housing Shortage” assumptions Stavros and its the biggest con job you have ever seen.

      Its based solely on the NHSC state of supply report from 2008. The NHSC are the ones who coined the “housing shortage”. Property industry groups and property spruikers everywhere just picked up on it and made those assumptions their own. Google it and you will see. Its such a joke The NHSC 2010 report even questions the assumptions used in the 2008 report. Here are a few the 2008 assumptions to show how ridiculous it is. The NHSC 2008 report reckons we needed 26,000 home to lift the vacancy rate to 3%. Yes thats right! A housing shortage due to not enough empty homes! they reckon 35,000 homes were required so people didnt have to live with family and friends? and another 13,000 homes required for to get people out of caravan parks. But here is the real punchline. While the NHSC said we had an 85,000 “housing shortage” in 2008, the 2006 census showed there were 10 times that amount or 850,000 dwellings sitting empty. Including 5% of all caravans. LOL! have a look its all there. Enjoy!

      • Cheers GB…we have discussed this before I think. I am PuntPal from Money Morning…if you are indeed GB from MM too.

        Thanks for link and the breakdown of how they fake the shortage…I didnt knwo about the 35K required homes needed to stop people crashing at their friends.

  3. Sandgroper Sceptic

    Check out WA which has been in recession for the last six months, highest population growth but poor economy. Just goes to show that population growth does not automatically equate to higher economic growth! Admittedly one statistic does not prove a trend…

    Perth is showing signs of strain though, traffic is becoming an issue even with the new railway lines (south and north) that have been built recently.

  4. well if you have a population increasing at 400k per annum, and work off 2.5 people per household on average (which is conservative as it is below the number in reality) you only need to build 160k houses a year to cover population growth. If we had only 325k last year, then we needed ~130k new homes which is right around the number that were built.

    The charts i’ve seen indicate there housing construction was well above the levels needed for a number of years, and only in the last couple have construction levels dropped (in effect catching up from previous over-construction).

    To get massive shortfalls they need to be using some pretty out-there assumptions regarding the demand for housing (ie they must include demand for holiday homes etc in there, that arent a necessity and is demand that will drop right off). I really dont understand where their shortage figures are coming from.

    if anything i think we’ll find in the next couple of years that there is no shortage at all, and in some areas there will be a glut of housing.

  5. So our population is set to double in 46 years (1.5% growth) instead of in 31 years (2.2%).

    1.5% growth is still too high IMO. If anything we need a stable/shrinking population to cope with strained water supplies and to be able to supply renewable energy to maintain reasonable affluence in the future.

    • From memory our replacement rate is lower than some of the “dying” European nations (e.g Italy is going backwards) and even approaching Japan.

      Declining NOM, which is now reverting to the mean after the bubblicious increases of the past 4 years, will likely accelerate further as skilled migrants compare the cost of living (particularly housing, but also general costs) and opportunities compared to other advanced nations (e.g Singapore/HK).

      I can’t see this situation reversing in the medium term, regardless of either side of government trying to increase skilled migration quotas – you just can’t turn a tap on and expect them to come…..