Fact Sheet 15 - Population Growth
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At 30 September 2011, the estimated Australian resident population was 22.696 million people, representing an annual increase of 319 600 people or 1.4 per cent.
The growth of Australia's population has two components: natural increase (the number of births minus the number of deaths) and net overseas migration (NOM). Natural increase and net overseas migration contributed 46 per cent and 54 per cent respectively to total population growth in the 12 months to 30 September 2011.
Source: ABS Australian Demographic Statistics 3101.0 (2012).
NOM estimates contain a break in series. Estimates for September 2006 quarter onwards use an improved methodology and are not comparable with NOM estimates from earlier periods.
Australia's total fertility rate (TFR), the average number of children a woman would bear over her lifetime, fell sharply from 3.6 children per woman in 1961 to 1.9 in 1979 and continued to fall steadily for the next 20 years. In 2002–03 it reached a low of 1.72 children per woman. Since then, it has increased, and in 2008 Australia's TFR was 1.98 babies per woman, the highest level since 1977 when the TFR was 2.01. The TFR fell slightly from 1.90 in 2009 to 1.89 children per woman in 2010.
Total fertility is still below the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman.
Life expectancy in Australia has increased significantly over the last five decades. Since 1960–62, life expectancy at birth has improved by 11.7 years for males and 9.9 years for females. Based on current mortality rates, a boy born in 2010 can expect to live 79.6 years while a girl can expect to live 84.1 years.
Net overseas migration (NOM) is the net gain or loss of population through immigration to Australia and emigration from Australia.
Overseas travellers are included in the population if they are in Australia for 12 months or more, during a 16 month period. Conversely, overseas travellers are subtracted from the population if they are away for a total of 12 months or more over a 16 month period. The level of NOM is the balance of these NOM arrivals minus NOM departures.
This method is known as the '12/16 month rule'. It accounts for those persons who may have left Australia briefly and returned, while still being resident for 12 months out of 16.
Net overseas migration can fluctuate considerably from year to year, but has been decreasing in recent years. Final NOM peaked at 315 700 for the year ending December 2008. Since this peak, NOM has fallen and the latest ABS estimates indicate that it was about 172 500 at 30 September 2011. This is a 45 per cent fall from its peak.
Currently NOM contributes about 54 per cent of Australia's population growth. NOM has outstripped the natural increase (the excess of births over deaths) in the population since 2005.
Further information regarding NOM and NOM forecasting is available on the department's website.
See: The Outlook for Net Overseas Migration
At 30 June 2010, about 26.8 per cent of the estimated resident population comprised those born overseas.
The countries representing the highest overseas born populations are the United Kingdom (1 192 880, 19.9 per cent of overseas-born), New Zealand (544 170, 9.1 per cent), China (379 780, 6.3 per cent), India (340 600, 5.7 per cent) and Italy (216 300, 3.6 per cent). Overall, the proportion of overseas born residents from European countries of birth is declining, while the proportion of migrants coming from Asia and Africa is increasing.
The potential workforce is the number in the population of workforce age, which is conventionally defined as 15-64 years old. The actual workforce will depend on the proportion of people aged between 15-64 years that participate in the workforce and those 65 and over who continue to work.
There is a also a potential workforce cohort of people who are less than 15 year olds who may be in the workforce but are not reported in the population of workforce age.
In recent years Australia's potential workforce has been growing by more than 200 000 people each year. In the year ending June 2011, the potential workforce increased by 201 400 people to reach 68.5 per cent (averaged over six months) of Australia's total population.
Population projections for Australia show that the ageing of our population will continue. This is the inevitable result of fertility below replacement levels over a long period and increasing life expectancy.
Research shows that immigration beyond current levels would have a diminishing impact on slowing the ageing of the population. This reflects ageing being a gradual process and the fact that most migrants who enter Australia would themselves be part of the aged population in 30 to 40 years time.
Research commissioned by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship consistent with the 2010 Intergenerational Report shows that after 2036 there will be more Australians retiring from the labour force than joining the labour force. This is because of the ageing baby boom generation and because long-term fertility rates remain below a replacement level. Immigration currently provides 54 per cent of Australia's population growth, but within the next few years it will be the only source of net labour force growth in Australia. Without immigration, labour force growth will almost cease within the next decade.
The department is developing a long term immigration planning framework that will inform and guide its future migration program decisions while maximising the benefits for Australia.
For further information about population ageing and Australia's labour future, please refer to Demographic and labour Supply Future's for Australia (2008).
Further information is available on the department's website.
The department also operates a national general enquiries line.
Telephone: 131 881
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm. Recorded information is available outside these hours.
Fact Sheet 15. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Last reviewed June 2012.
© Commonwealth of Australia 2009.