National, state and territory population, September 2020

Centre for Population analysis of the National, state and territory population publication from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

Reference period: September 202018 March 2021

The Estimated Resident Population (ERP) of Australia was 25.7 million people at 30 September 2020, around 4,200 people smaller than the last quarter in June 2020. This is the first recorded quarterly decline since the beginning of the series in 1981.

Annual population growth remained positive, slowing to just below 0.9 per cent in the year ending September 2020 – the lowest since WWII (0.8 per cent in year ending June 1943).

For the first time since 2005 net overseas migration (NOM) has contributed less to population growth than natural increase. NOM accounted for 39 per cent of annual growth to year ending September 2020 and natural increase the other 61 per cent.

The September 2020 quarter is the second quarter we have seen travel restrictions due to COVID-19 contribute to negative NOM. Year ending NOM dropped to its lowest level in over 20 years at around 85,100 people in the year to September 2020.

The greatest impact was in Victoria due to the extended lockdown in the September quarter. Lower NOM and reduced net internal migration resulted in Victoria’s population declining by 16,000 people in the quarter.

For the first time since quarterly ERP has been measured by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (1981) Australia’s population has recorded a decline of 4,200 people (0.0 per cent change for the quarter). Chart 1 shows quarterly population growth and its components.

Chart 1: Quarterly national population growth and components, number of people

Following the introduction of international travel restrictions in the March 2020 quarter, NOM continues to fall. NOM declined to -34,800 in the September 2020 quarter from -7,000 in the June quarter (chart 1). The September result is the lowest quarterly level ever recorded and only the third time NOM has been negative since the ERP series began.

In the September quarter, 55,400 people emigrated from Australia compared to 20,600 arriving immigrants. In the year to September 2020, NOM was 85,100, down 65 per cent from 242,000 in the year to September 2019. This is the lowest level of year ending NOM experienced since the year to September 1998 (chart 2).

Chart 2: Net overseas migration, year ending

Natural increase was relatively steady over the year to September 2020 (135,000 people) and accounted for 61 per cent of annual population growth. Annual births dropped under 300,000 for the first time since 2009. This was mainly due to a decrease in the number of births registered in Victoria. This could reflect changes in registrations of births during the extended lockdown in Victoria. Despite an ageing population, the number of deaths in Australia decreased slightly by 1,400 people in the year to September 2020.

Net interstate migration (NIM) declined in the year to September 2020, a drop of 11 per cent. In September there were 45,500 fewer interstate moves nationally compared to 404,000 a year earlier. The September 2020 quarter had the lowest number of people moving between states since December 2015. See the September 2020 Provisional Regional Internal Migration Estimates Econote, released 3 February, for more detailed information.

State and territory outcomes

Over the year to September 2020, all states and territories have seen much slower population growth as a result of COVID-19, except for the Northern Territory (chart 3). The decline in Australia’s population in the September 2020 quarter was driven almost entirely by a decline in Victoria’s population in the quarter. See chart 4 below for a detailed breakdown of the components of change for the states and territories in the September 2020 quarter.

Chart 3: State and territory population growth (per cent), year ending
Chart 4: State and territory population growth (no. people), quarterly, September 2020
  • Victoria’s annual population growth experienced the largest fall of all states, slowing from 2.1 per cent a year ago to 0.7 per cent in the year to September 2020 – this is the lowest recorded growth since 1995. This takes Victoria from having been the fastest growing state a year ago to the third slowest growing state. This is mainly due to the extended lockdown and large outflows of overseas migrants in the June and September quarters of 2020. There were also large outflows of internal migrants, especially from Melbourne.
    • Victoria’s population declined by 16,000 people in the September 2020 quarter, by far the most substantial drop in population of any state or territory in the quarter. NSW (-1,200 people) and the ACT (-200 people) were the only other jurisdictions to have population decline.
  • New South Wales’ annual population growth more than halved from 1.3 per cent in September 2019 to 0.6 per cent in September 2020 making it the second slowest growing state after the Northern Territory. The quarterly population decline in New South Wales was driven by -6,900 NOM in the September 2020 quarter. This is compared to 23,300 NOM in the September quarter of 2019.
  • Queensland’s annual population growth has also slowed in the September quarter (1.3 per cent) and is the fastest growing state or territory. In the September quarter Queensland was less affected by reduced NOM than New South Wales and Victoria and saw a slight uptick in NIM.
  • South Australia’s annual population growth rate fell to 0.7 per cent, from 1.0 per cent a year ago. Despite this drop in growth, it is only the third time South Australia has recorded positive quarterly NIM since 1992.
  • Western Australia’s annual population growth remained relatively similar to a year ago (1.2 per cent). This was due to an increase in NIM in the September quarter as people stay in Western Australia offsetting the decrease in NOM. This means Western Australia is now the second fastest growing state or territory after being the slowest growing state at the end of 2016.
  • Tasmania’s annual population growth has held relatively steady at 1 per cent. Prior to the pandemic Tasmania was experiencing some of its highest annual population growth rates since the 1990s.
  • The Northern Territory was the only state or territory to experience stronger annual population growth compared to a year ago. And while the Northern Territory is still the slowest growing state or territory it recorded its first annual positive growth rate in over two years. Behind Queensland and Western Australia, the Northern Territory experienced the third largest increase in population between the June and September quarters.
  • The Australian Capital Territory’s annual population growth slowed from 1.4 in September 2019 to 0.8 in the year ending September 2020. Slow growth is being driven by a reduction in annual NOM, from over 2,600 people in the year to September 2019 to just under 600 people in the year to September 2020. The Australian Capital Territory was also one of only three states and territories to experience population decline in the September 2020 quarter.
Table 1. Population growth across Australia
State ERP
30 September 2020
ERP increase
Since September 2019
ERP Increase
Natural Increase
NSW 8,166,369 50,594 0.6 42,881 -20,388 28,101
VIC 6,680,648 47,221 0.7 33,790 -3,536 16,967
QLD 5,184,847 68,175 1.3 28,571 27,115 12,489
SA 1,770,591 12,733 0.7 4,888 -1,091 8,936
WA 2,667,130 32,639 1.2 18,089 -833 15,383
TAS 541,071 5,284 1.0 1,411 1,255 2,618
NT 246,500 442 0.2 2,584 -2,159 17
ACT 431,215 3,418 0.8 3,215 -363 566
Australia* 25,693,059 220,531 0.9 135,434 NA 85,097

* Includes other Territories comprising Jervis Bay Territory, Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Norfolk Island

Table 2: Upcoming major ABS population releases
Release Former catalogue Release date
Regional population, 2019-20 3218.0 30 Mar 2021
Migration, Australia 2019-20 3412.0 23 April 2021
Regional Internal Migration Estimates, Provisional (PRIME), December quarter 2020 NA 4 May 2021
National, state and territory population, December 2020 3101.0 17 June 2021