Population: Fewest Aussie births in 13 years; Death rate falls
Population

What happened? Australia’s population increased by 6,900 people or 0.03 per cent in the December quarter, 2020 to 25,694,393 people. In 2020, Australia’s population grew by 136,300 people – the slowest pace since at least June 1982 when Bureau of Statistics (ABS) records began. Overall, the annual population growth rate eased from 1.54 per cent in 2019 to 0.53 per cent in 2020 – the lowest calendar year growth since 1916 (-1.0 per cent).

There were 294,400 babies born in the year to December – the fewest births in 13 years – to be down 11,900 or 3.9 per cent over the year, the biggest annual contraction since at least December 1982. And there were 161,400 deaths in the past year, down by 5,600 or 3.4 per cent on the previous year – the biggest annual decline in over two years.

Implications: The slowest population growth in a century and an extended period of international border closures is likely to eventually constrain the economy, particularly the labour and housing markets, given Australia’s aging population. Of course, countries with higher Covid-19 vaccination rates could re-open their borders more quickly, attracting international tourists, students and highly skilled workers.

The population data provides insights on the job market, wages and prices, and ultimately on interest rates.

What does it mean?

• The records continue to tumble when it comes to the pandemic’s impact on Australia’s population. The imposition of international border restrictions from March 2020 saw Australia’s population decline by an historic 10,600 people in the September quarter. While population increased by 6,900 in the December quarter – it was the smallest quarterly lift in people since the ABS population series began in June 1981. And in 2020, Australia’s population grew by 136,300 people – the slowest pace since at least June 1982. Overall, the annual population growth rate eased from 1.54 per cent in 2019 to 0.53 per cent in 2020 – the lowest calendar year growth since 1916 (-1.0 per cent).

• Net overseas migration totalled 3,300 people over the year to December – the lowest intake of net overseas arrivals since at least March 1982. And natural increase (births less deaths) for the year to December was 133,100, to be down by 4.5 per cent.

• In 2020, population growth stood at just 0.01 per cent in Victoria and 0.44 per cent in NSW – the slowest annual growth rates since at least June 1982 (series lows). Queensland’s 1.13 per cent annual growth rate was also a series low, with population growth in South Australia (0.53 per cent) at 16-year lows. But the Northern Territory’s annual population growth rate of 0.55 per cent was the strongest in 3½ years.

• Aussies may have spent more time at home during the pandemic but they gave birth to the fewest babies (70,100) in 14 years in the December quarter. And there were 294,400 babies born in the year to December – the fewest births in 13 years – to be down 11,900 or 3.9 per cent over the year, the biggest annual contraction since at least December 1982.

• And despite the health crisis, there were 161,400 deaths in the past year to December, down by 5,600 or 3.4 per cent on the previous year – the biggest annual decline in over two years.

• Population growth is expected by policymakers to fall to the slowest annual rate since World War I at just 0.2 per cent over the current financial year with the Federal Government forecasting a decline in net overseas migration of 77,000 in 2021/22. It’s unlikely that migration growth will meaningfully pick up until late 2022 and is highly dependent on a greater proportion of the population being vaccinated, enabling the broader re-opening of borders.

What do you need to know?

Population Statistics – December quarter, 2020

• Australia’s population increased by 6,900 people or 0.03 per cent in the December quarter to 25,694,393 people. Net overseas migration fell by 24,900 with 67,000 people departing Australia in the quarter and 42,100 people arriving from overseas.

• Over the year to December, Australia’s population grew by 136,300 people – the slowest pace since at least June 1982 when Bureau of Statistics (ABS) records began. Overall, the annual population growth rate eased from 0.84 to 0.53 per cent – – the lowest calendar year growth since 1916 (-1.0 per cent).

• Natural increase contributed 97.6 per cent to the annual lift in population with 2.4 per cent from net overseas migration.

• Over the year to December, population growth was strongest in Queensland (1.13 per cent), followed by Western Australia (0.93 per cent), the ACT (0.76 per cent), Tasmania (0.60 per cent), Northern Territory (0.55 per cent), South Australia (0.53 per cent), NSW (0.44 per cent) and Victoria (0.01 per cent).

• Net overseas migration totalled 3,300 people over the year to December – the lowest intake of net overseas arrivals since at least March 1982 – with 243,600 arrivals and 240,300 departures.

• There were 294,400 babies born in the year to December – the fewest births in 13 years – to be down 11,900 or 3.9 per cent over the year, the biggest annual contraction since at least December 1982.

• And there were 161,400 deaths in the past year, down by 5,600 or 3.4 per cent on the previous year – the biggest annual decline in over two years.

• Natural increase (births less deaths) for the year to December was 133,100, to be down by 4.5 per cent.

Published by Ryan Felsman, Senior Economist, CommSec