Find a visa Find the right visa for your needs

Fact sheet 15 - population growth

On this page

At 31 March 2013, the estimated Australian resident population was 23 032 700 people, representing an annual increase of 397 400 people or 1.8 per cent.

Components of population growth

The growth of Australia's population has two main components: natural increase (the number of births minus the number of deaths) and net overseas migration (NOM). Natural increase and net overseas migration contributed 40 per cent and 60 per cent respectively to total population growth in the 12 months to March 2013. The third component of population growth is intercensal error, which can only be measured after each census. Information on intercensal error is available on the Information Paper: Rebasing Population Estimates, Australia, 2011, Aug 2011.

Total population growth

Source: ABS Australian Demographic Statistics (3101.0, March 2013).

Note: 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 3.548 children per woman in 1961 to 1.907 in 1979, and continued to fall steadily for the next 20 years. In 2001, it reached a low of 1.729 children per woman. Since then, it has increased, and in 2008 Australia's TFR was 2.023 babies per woman, the highest level since 1976 when the TFR was 2.06. Since 2008 the TFR has fallen steadily to 1.933 children per woman in 2012.

Total fertility is still below the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman.

Life expectancy

Life expectancy in Australia has increased significantly over the last five decades. Since 1960–62, life expectancy at birth has improved by 12.0 years for males and 10.1 years for females. Based on current mortality rates, a boy born in 2012 can expect to live 79.9 years while a girl can expect to live 84.3 years.

Net overseas migration

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 a total of 12 months or more over 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 out of 16 months.

NOM can fluctuate considerably from year to year, and has been increasing over the last two years. Final NOM peaked at 315 700 for the year ending December 2008 and then fell, by 45.5 per cent to 172 100 for the year ending December 2010. Since then, NOM has again been increasing and the latest ABS preliminary estimates indicate that NOM was at 238 300 for the year ending March 2013. This is a 37.6 per cent increase over the previous 12 month period but still 24.5 per cent down on the peak.

Currently NOM contributes about 60 per cent of Australia's population growth (for the year ending March 2013) and 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 2011, 27 per cent of the estimated resident population was born overseas (6.0 million).

The countries representing the highest overseas-born populations are the United Kingdom (1 180 160, 19.6 per cent of overseas-born), New Zealand (564 920, 9.4 per cent), the People's Republic of China (391 060, 6.5 per cent), India (343 070, 5.7 per cent) and Vietnam (212 070, 3.5 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.

Population ageing and the labour force future

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 us 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 replacement level. Immigration currently provides 60 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.

We have implemented a long-term immigration planning framework that will inform and guide its future migration programme 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).

Fact sheet 15. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
Last Reviewed April 2014.