30 September 2011

Immigration still key driver of Australian population growth

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Figures released yesterday indicate that immigration accounts for more than half the increase in Australian population growth this year.

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Latest population figures show immigration still the key factor in Australian population growth despite a general decline in net migration.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released its latest population growth figures, showing that 54% of the growth of the past 12 months to March 2011 is accounted for by net overseas migration.  The figures suggest that migration is a greater factor in population growth than natural increase through birth which made up the remaining 46%.

However, despite the key role played by Australian immigration in driving growth, the ABS has found that the overrall population growth rate has slowed to 1.4%.

In a statement released yesterday, the ABS explained that "Australia's population reached 22,546,300 people at the end of March 2011, growing by 312,400 people over the year".

"This is down from the previous year where the population grew by 374,600 people, and is the lowest growth since the year ending March 2006 when an increase of 299,269 people was recorded," the statement read.

The figures also indicate that the current growth rate, while slower than in the last two years, is equal to the average population growth for the last thirty years.

Furthermore, the number of people emigrating to Australia has actually declined. The figures show that "net overseas migration continued to decline to the end of March 2011. The preliminary net overseas migration estimate for the year ending March 2011 (167,100 people) was 24% lower than that for March 2010 (220,000 people)".

Experts say the slump in migration is due to politics and deliberate government policy. KPMG demographer Bernard Salt told The Australian that the current Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has sought to distance herself from the pro-population policy - 'big Australia' - of her predecessor Kevin Rudd, whom she deposed in a coup in June 2010.

"The issue is that we seem to have dropped below the level required to deliver a big Australia.  The big Australia trajectory is 180,000 a year," he said.

Mr Salt projected that immigration numbers would stabilise over the coming year at a slightly higher level than the current growth rate.

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