Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released its annual regional population growth figures for the 2014-15 financial year. As far as capital city regions go the data showed that population growth in Melbourne is booming.

While the ABS releases national and state demographic data each quarter, population updates for smaller areas are only published once a year. They are extremely valuable for understanding population trends, and consequently housing demand, across the smaller regions.

As at June 2015, it was estimated that the national population was 23,777,777 persons with 15,869,075 persons (66.7%) living within a capital city. Sydney (4,920,970) was estimated to be Australia’s most populous capital city followed by: Melbourne (4,529,496), Brisbane (2,308,720), Perth (2,039,193), Adelaide (1,316,779), Canberra (390,706), Hobart (220,953), Darwin (142,258). Based on the data, 20.7% of Australian residents live in Sydney with a further 19.0% residing in Melbourne. Our two largest cities account for almost 40% of the population with the figure rising to 58.0% if you include Brisbane and Perth.

Estimated resident population of capital cities, June 2015


Over the past 12 months, Melbourne has recorded the fastest rate of population growth at 2.1%. Elsewhere, the annual rates of population growth have been recorded at 1.7% in Sydney, 1.6% in Brisbane, 0.9% in Adelaide, 1.6% in Perth, 0.8% in Hobart, 1.9% in Darwin and 1.4% in Canberra.

Sydney is the only capital city in which population growth over the past year has been greater than average growth over the past decade. Melbourne and Hobart recorded population growth in line with their 10 year average levels while all other capital cities have recorded below average population growth over the past year. Brisbane, Perth and Darwin in particular have recorded population growth well below 10 year average rates. This is due to much higher population growth in these cities during the early part of the decade throughout the mining boom. With the boom now ending and job creation weaker these regions are not as attractive to interstate and overseas migrants.

12 month and 10 year average rate of population growth to June 2015


If we look at population increases in raw number terms it shows that Sydney and Melbourne are the population growth epicentres. Of course, both cities have much higher populations that the other capitals which means more people are born in these cities. However, many overseas and interstate migrants are also moving to these cities because of the better job opportunities.

Over the 12 months to June 2015, Melbourne’s population increased by 91,593 persons and Sydney’s by 83,309. Based on this data, Melbourne’s population increase accounted for 28.9% of the total national population increase and 34.8% of the capital city population increase. In Sydney, the annual population increase accounted for 26.3% of the national increase in population and 31.7% of the capital city population increase. Between them, these two cities accounted for 55.2% of total population increase in 2014-15.

12 month and 10 year average increase in population to June 2015


Sydney and Melbourne are the only capital cities in which the total population increase over the past year was higher than the 10 year average levels. Sydney recorded its greatest population increase since 2008 while Melbourne’s population increase slowed from 94,335 the previous year. In Brisbane, the population increase was the lowest since 2001 and in Adelaide the increase was its lowest since 2011. Perth’s population increase was its lowest since 2005 while Hobart had its greatest increase since 2010. Finally the population increase in Darwin was up from 2,251 persons in 2014 and Canberra’s population increase was up from 4,432 persons in 2014.

The data shows that Melbourne and Sydney are the magnets for population growth. This is occurring because they are the strongest economies and attracting both interstate and overseas migrants. Of course, this growth doesn’t come without its challenges, housing affordability in particular is a significant issue in both cities after substantial rises in home values over recent years. Furthermore, providing the necessary infrastructure to support this population growth remains a challenge. With these issues pressing we may see population growth pick-up in areas outside of Sydney and Melbourne over coming years as people search for a more affordable lifestyle. Areas with a healthy level of job opportunities such as South East Queensland are likely to be beneficiaries of higher migration flows, particularly from interstate.