The latest demographic data release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows a big jump in net overseas migration over the first quarter of 2017.  The 86,595 increase in net overseas migration throughout the March 2017 quarter was the largest quarterly increase since March 2009 (88,696).  The quarterly rate of net overseas migration was also 36% higher over the March 2017 quarter than the March 2016 quarter.


The latest demographic data shows that there were an estimated 24.512 million Australians at the end of March 2017.  Over the 12 months to March 2017, the national population increased by 1.6% and was rising at its fastest rate since the year to March 2014.  Across the states and territories, Victoria remained the fastest growing state by some distance (2.4%) followed by the Australian Capital Territory (1.8%) and New South Wales and Queensland (both 1.6%).  Elsewhere, the rate of population growth over the past year has been below 1%, recorded at: 0.6% in South Australia and Tasmania, 0.7% in Western Australia and 0.1% in Northern Territory.


In terms of the raw number increase in population growth, 70.1% of all population growth nationally occurred in New South Wales (123,296) and Victoria (149,374).  Elsewhere the population increase was also significant in Queensland (75,372) but much lower in Western Australia (18,398), South Australia (10,255), Australian Capital Territory (7,170), Tasmania (3,091) and Northern Territory (338).


Looking at the components of population growth, over the 12 months to March 2017 there was an additional 142,427 persons due to natural increase and 231,890 persons due to net overseas migration.  Over the year, the rate of natural increase fell by -5.8% while the rate of net overseas migration rose by 26.9%.  Net overseas migration accounted for 59.6% of total population growth over the past year which was its highest proportion of the increase since the 12 months to March 2010.

Components of state and territory population growth, quarterly to March 2017.


With New South Wales and Victoria leading the charge in terms of population increases, the rise is being driven by both net overseas and interstate migration in Victoria and by net overseas migration in New South Wales.  Over the 12 months to March 2017, 40.3% of all net overseas migration nationally has been into New South Wales with 36.0% flowing to Victoria.  Across the states and territories the annual change in population due to net overseas migration was recorded at: 93,481 persons in New South Wales, 83,446 persons in Victoria, 27,521 persons in Queensland, 10,330 persons in South Australia, 12,476 persons in Western Australia, 1,291 persons in Tasmania, 832 persons in Northern Territory and 2,503 persons in Australian Capital Territory.  The data highlights that although Australia is running a high rate of overseas migration, overwhelmingly these migrants are choosing to settle in the two largest states and more likely within our two most populous cities (Sydney and Melbourne).

The other major component of population change at a state and territory level is net interstate migration.  Over the 12 months to March 2017, only Victoria (18,557 persons), Queensland (15,716 persons), Tasmania (651 persons) and Australian Capital Territory (701 persons) recorded a positive inflow of residents from other parts of the country.  For Victoria, the inflow was the highest on record, in Queensland it was the highest since March 2009, for Tasmania it was the highest since December 2010 and for Australian Capital Territory it was the highest since September 2011.  All other states and territories recorded a net loss of residents to other parts of the country with the losses recorded at: -13,866 persons in New South Wales, -6,541 persons in South Australia, -11,760 persons in Western Australia and -3,458 persons in Northern Territory.  For New South Wales it is the greatest outflow since June 2013 and Western Australia and Northern Territory are seeing their greatest outflows of residents on record.


By combining net overseas and net interstate migration the data shows that Northern Territory is the only state or territory to record a net reduction of population due to migration (-2,626 persons) over the year to March 2017.  Meanwhile, net migration to New South Wales (79,615 persons) and Victoria (102,003 persons) is at all-time highs.  Migration to Queensland is at its highest level (43,237 persons) since September 2013, migration to Tasmania is at its highest level (1,942 persons) since December 2010 and migration to Australian Capital Territory is the highest it has been (3,204 persons) since September 2012.  In Western Australia, net migration is the lowest it has been on record.

Australia’s rate of population growth remains rapid however, when you look at the actual increase in population the vast majority of it is occurring in the two largest states.  These increases aren’t only due to natural increase of the current population but also a heightened (record high) level of net migration into New South Wales and Victoria.  This additional housing demand is creating housing affordability challenges in the two capital cities however, these two states are also seeing the bulk of job creation nationally so it is no surprise an increasing number of Australians and migrants are choosing these two states to live.  The ongoing rapid rate of population growth (particularly in the two most populous states) also highlights why ensuring infrastructure upgrades and investment keep pace with the rapid rate of population growth.