Australia’s population growth rate may be slowing


Australia’s fertility rate continues to be below the long-term replacement level, although births will outnumber deaths for many years to come.  The number of births is not increasing while deaths are increasing slowly, so natural increase is slowing.

Could Australia follow some other countries on a path to even lower fertility?  It is unlikely at present, based on our research.

Net migration may be slowing and so our population growth rate may also be about to slow.  The largest component of net migration is temporary visas – for foreign students, long-term visitors, and working holidays.  The largest source of foreign students is China and the recent coronavirus outbreak there may prevent some students from coming to Australia.

It is important that Australia’s international image is one of high educational standards and a good quality natural environment.  Recent tragic, extensive bushfires along with very poor air quality even in capital cities is not good for our image.  Nor is the intransigence of many politicians on the issue of effective action to limit dangerous climate change.

Population growth is one of three important drivers of long-term economic growth.  Let’s not turn young people away due to complacency about climate change.

Details are available at

Charlie Nelson



Australia’s population outlook


Population growth is an important driver of economic growth, lifting both demand and productive capacity.  Growth is currently 1.6% per year and may be falling.  The peak growth rate was 2.2% in 2008.

Peak births?  Births may have peaked in 2018, at 314,900.  The 1971 peak of 274,400 was not exceeded until 2007 despite significant population growth.  Fertility peaked in 1961 at 3.55 and the arrival of the oral contraception pill quickly caused a rapid decline.  Fertility has averaged 1.85 since 1985.

Peak deaths? The increase in the number of deaths has slowed recently and deaths may be at a peak.

Peak life expectancy? Not yet: life expectancy is still increasing at all ages.

Peak natural increase?  Natural increase (births minus deaths) appears to have peaked at 165,200 in 2012.

Peak net migration?  The peak was 315,700 in 2008.  The trend is currently rising, but not fast enough to break the record for several years.

Our report projects Australia’s births, deaths, net migration, and population for 2020 and 2021.  It also discusses the uncertainties surrounding births and net migration.

Charlie Nelson


A coming wave of diseases in Australia

Australia has been lagging in infrastructure construction since I arrived in the late 1950’s.  We have been playing catch-up for all that time, but we have fallen even further behind since 2007.

In addition to the transport infrastructure backlog, particularly public transport, we now need to significantly increase investment in health in order to avoid a big increase in the prevalence of several diseases.

Australia’s population growth rate has increased substantially since 2007.  Net migration increased and so did births.

The peak age of net migration is 20 to 24 and so there is now a large increase in the number of people aged 30 to 34.  This coincides with an increase in the Australian-born population with ages centred around 30, due to an increase in the number of births in the late 1980’s.

There is a large peak in the population aged 25 to 34 and as they age over the next 10 to 20 years, they will be of an age where the onset of several diseases increases.  This includes type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and multiple sclerosis.

At the same time, the oldest of the large baby boomer generation will reaching the age where the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer disease, and several others increase.

Accordingly, Australia needs to invest significantly more in disease prevention as well as cure and treatment.

For details, see my report.

Charlie Nelson


Australia’s population growth may be about to slow

Australia’s population growth (to September 2017) is growing at 1.67% per year, which is considerably higher than the rate in the early noughties (1.2%).  The growth rate may be about to slow.

Births have increased from just under 250,000 per year in the early noughties to a peak of 311,000 in 2016.  The number of births has declined only slightly since then but are unlikely to increase in the short-term.  Fertility rates peak at the age groups 25 to 29 and 30 to 34.  The fertility rates in these age groups have declined to a record low since 2008.  This may be due to a decline in housing affordability.  Furthermore, the growth rate of the population aged 25 to 34 is slowing due to a plunge in the number of births in the 1990’s – following the last recession in Australia.

Meanwhile, the number of deaths has been increasing steadily and reached 159,000 in 2016, up from 129,000 in 2001.

The result of these changing numbers of births and deaths means that natural population increase (births minus deaths) peaked in 160,300 in 2013 and has been declining since.  This is expected to continue.  Currently, natural population increase is adding 0.6% to the population each year.

Net migration is currently rising, reaching an expected 258,000 in 2017.  There is a cyclical component to net migration, which hit a record high of 316,000 in 2008.

Permanent migration is declining slightly at present due to more stringent vetting.

Temporary resident visas represent the major component of net migration and this is the cyclical component, averaging over 100,000 per year and peaking at 200,000 in 2008.  Many of these visas are for students.

The next downturn in the number of temporary visas may coincide with lower permanent migration and slowing natural increase.  If this happens, Australia’s population growth rate could decline to around 1.4% or even less.

UPDATE:  Clear signs of the slowing population growth rate evident now.  See my report.  3 July 2018

Charlie Nelson