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.

Charlie Nelson