National, state and territory population, June 2020

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

Reference period: June 202017 December 2020

The Estimated Resident Population (ERP) of Australia was 25.7 million people at 30 June 2020. The annual population growth declined to 1.3 per cent from 1.5 per cent observed in 2018-19 financial year.

This lower population growth was driven by both sharply lower net overseas migration (NOM) and lower natural increase.

Net overseas migration (NOM) declined 24 per cent as arrivals fell sharply in the June quarter. Departures through the year were almost unchanged with the sharp June quarter decline offsetting increases earlier in the year.

This release shows the early impacts of COVID-19 on Australia’s population, in particular impacts on NOM (see ‘COVID-19 and net overseas migration’ below).

Chart 1: Annual State and territory population growth, year ending 30 June 2020

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, National, state and territory population

Net Overseas Migration (NOM)

NOM accounted for around 0.7 percentage points (or 57 per cent) of the 1.3 per cent increase in the national ERP over the year. NOM for the year to June 2020 was 184,200 people, the lowest level since the year to June 2015.

This annual decrease in NOM was mostly due to the 12 per cent decline in the number of arrivals (63,700 people) and to lesser extent by a decline in the number of departures which declined by 2 per cent to 6,400 people.

Natural Increase

Natural increase contributed around 0.5 percentage points (or 43 per cent) to annual ERP growth. Natural increase over the year to June 2020 was 137,100 people, 4,600 people lower than in the year to June 2019. This was due to an increase in the number of deaths (4,000 more deaths) and a decline in the number of births (600 less births) observed since June 2019.

Net interstate migration (NIM)

NIM declined in the year to June 2020. Around 85,500 people moved interstate in the June quarter of 2020 compared to over 100,300 people in the June quarter of 2019. This represents a drop of 15 per cent.

State and Territory outcomes

  • New South Wales’ annual population growth continues to slow. The decrease in the population growth in the June quarter is primarily driven by a 35 per cent drop in NOM, from the previous year, while the contribution from NIM and natural increase remain relatively steady.
  • Victoria has recorded its lowest growth rate in the June quarter since the early 2011. The slower growth rate is mainly due to a drop in NOM and 82 per cent drop in NIM inflows for the year to June 2020, compared to the previous year.
  • Queensland’s population growth in the June quarter (1.6 per cent) is the fastest amongst all states and territories. While the highest among all the states, the Queensland’s growth for the June quarter 2020 is lower than a year ago. This decline is driven by a decline in NOM and natural increase, not fully offset by an 11 per cent increase in NIM.
  • South Australia’s population growth rate remained steady at 0.9 percent compared to its growth rate in the year ending June 2019. A drop in net interstate outflows observed in year to June 2020 was compensated by lower NOM inflows and lower natural increase over the same period of time.
  • Western Australia’s annual population growth increased in June 2020 compared to the previous year. This increase is driven primarily by a 45 per cent fall in the NIM outflows.
  • Tasmania’s rate of population growth has held roughly steady at 1.1 per cent annually. The slightly slower growth over the past 12 months compared to the previous year is due lower net interstate migration inflows, which declined by 40 per cent compared to the previous year.
  • While the Northern Territory still has negative population growth, the rate of decline slowed mainly due to smaller net interstate outflows (down by 38 per cent) compared to the year to June 2019.
  • Compared to a year ago, the Australian Capital Territory’s annual population growth has slowed down to 1.1.percent. Falling NIM and NOM are driving this slowdown with NIM outflows increasing by more than two-fold and the NOM inflows decreasing by 25 percent.
Table 1. Population growth across Australia
State ERP
30 June 2020
ERP increase
to June 2020
ERP Increase
Natural Increase
NSW 8,164,128 76,749 0.9 42,713 -20,887 54,923
VIC 6,694,884 98,004 1.5 36,212 2,243 59,549
QLD 5,174,437 80,553 1.6 28,329 25,348 26,876
SA 1,769,319 16,638 0.9 4,917 -2,160 13,881
WA 2,661,936 38,677 1.5 17,743 -2,410 23,344
TAS 540,569 5,994 1.1 1,314 1,213 3,467
NT 245,980 -163 -0.1 2,525 -2,697 9
ACT 431,114 4,829 1.1 3,377 -650 2,102
Australia* 25,687,041 321,296 1.3 137,127 NA 184,169

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

COVID-19 affects both overseas and internal migration

The restrictions on international arrivals and departures, introduced in March, were in full effect across the June quarter. Only Australian citizens, permanent residents and New Zealander usually resident in Australia could enter Australia. Only temporary migrants (including New Zealanders) were allowed to depart in that quarter.

Compared to the 2019 June quarter, migration arrivals were down almost 90 per cent, and departures were down 77 per cent. NOM was negative for the June quarter with 5,900 more people departing than arriving (Chart 2). A negative NOM quarter last occurred in 1993 as migration program levels had been reduced in response to the recession in the early 1990s. These two periods are the only instances of negative NOM since 1971 following the establishment of the “Australia as the usual place of residence” measure for determining whether an overseas arrival or departure was a migrant and added to or detracted from the population.

The introduction of travel restrictions had impacts on earlier cohorts of migrants as well. On a year-ending basis migrant departures increased by more than 83,000 people between March 2019 and March 2020. This is around 10 times the average annual change in departures since 2009.

A significant share of this increase is believed to be due to international students unable to return Australia in March. Having left the country in late 2019, the inability to return led to them as being identified as overseas migration departures on the date they left. Total migration departures in the December 2019 quarter were 15 times higher than the average December quarter since 2009.

Overall, in the year to June 2020, NOM fell 57,200 people (24 per cent). The only larger financial year decline occurred in 2009-10 following policy and regulatory adjustments to improve the integrity of student visas. NOM declined in most states with New South Wales and Victoria accounting for a disproportionately large share of the decline. In Western Australia, although there was only a small decline in arrivals, a significantly larger decline in departures resulted in NOM increasing by more than a third (or 5,900 people).

Chart 2: Net overseas migration, to June 2020