How the pandemic shaped population trends

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The 2022 Population Statement reveals the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on Australia’s demographic trends, including a notable dent in the country’s forecasted population growth.


– Australia’s population is expected to have grown by 1.1 per cent in 2021/22, buoyed by the return of overseas migration, to be 26 million in June 2022.

– Growth is expected to continue and the population is expected to hit 29.9 million by 2032/33.

– The pause in overseas migration during the pandemic will lead to a slightly smaller and older Australia based on 10-year forecasts. The population will be about four per cent smaller than expected.


– During the pandemic, births dropped off sharply as would-be parents put off plans to have children amid the period of uncertainty.

– But fertility rates have rebounded to 1.66 babies per woman in 2021/22.

– Fertility rates are predicted to gradually decline to 1.62 babies per woman by 2030/31 in alignment with long-term trends in other developed countries.


– Overseas migration is on track to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022/23, rebounding to about 235,000 people per year on average.

– The rapid return of international students is underpinning the migration recovery, with an extra 122,000 international students arriving in Australia between December 2021 and October 2022.


– As in other developed nations, Australia’s population is ageing because of longer life expectancies, declining fertility rates and the wave of baby boomers entering retirement.

– The median age is expected to grow from 38.4 years to over 40 within a decade.

– An ageing population is expected to weigh on the economy and government budgets as there will be fewer people at working age relative to older Australians.


– States and territories are expected to return to their long-term population trends after the pandemic threw some jurisdictions off course.

– All states and territories except the Northern Territory had a reduction in population growth due to overseas travel restrictions.

– Population growth fell the most in NSW and Victoria because overseas migration tends to make up most of their population growth in normal times.

– Melbourne is still expected to overtake Sydney as the largest Australian city but it will take slightly longer due to many people leaving the city during COVID.

– Victoria and Queensland are expected to be the fastest-growing of the three biggest jurisdictions over the next decade but NSW is still expected to remain the most populous state.

– Queensland absorbed much of the interstate migration throughout the pandemic and actually grew by 0.8 per cent in 2020/21.

– South Australia and Tasmania are expected to continue to be older than other states.

– Regional areas are also expected to remain older than capital cities, with the exception of the Northern Territory.

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