National, state and territory population, March 2020

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

Reference period: March 202024 September 2020

The Estimated Resident Population (ERP) of Australia was 25.6 million people at 31 March 2020, as annual population growth remained steady at 1.4 per cent. This was compared to 1.5 per cent over the financial year 2018 19.

This lower population growth was driven by both lower natural increase and lower net overseas migration (NOM). Lower NOM was due to record high departures through the year to March 2020, only partly offset by record high arrivals over the same period.

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

This release was previously called 3101.0 Australian Demographic Statistics.

State and territory population growth, year ending 31 March 2020

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

Net Overseas Migration

NOM accounted for around 0.9 percentage points (or 62 per cent) of the 1.4 per cent increase in the national ERP over the year. NOM for the year to March 2020 was 220,500 people, the lowest level since the year to June 2016.

This annual decrease in NOM was due to the 20 per cent increase in the number of departures (343,700 people), even as arrivals increased 5 per cent to 564,100 people.

Natural Increase

Natural increase contributed around 0.5 percentage points (or 38 per cent) to annual ERP growth. Natural increase over the year to March 2020 was 136,500 people, 7,200 people lower than in the year to March 2019. This was due to the number of deaths increasing by more (8,000 more deaths) than the number of births (900 more births) since March 2019.

Net interstate migration

NIM declined slightly in the year to March 2020. Around 88,000 people moved interstate (0.3 per cent of the population) in the March quarter of 2020 compared to over 100,000 people (0.4 per cent) in the March quarter of 2019.

  • Victoria still has the highest annual population growth rate of any state or territory, despite recording its lowest growth rate since the end of 2011. The slower growth rate is mainly due to lower NOM and NIM levels for the year to March 2020, compared to the previous year.
  • Queensland’s population growth remains strong, with an increase in the rate of growth in the March quarter. Queensland’s population growth is driven by roughly equal contributions from all three components of population change.
  • Western Australia’s annual population growth continues to increase after the low growth following the end of the mining boom, recording its highest rate of growth since early 2014. Recent growth was driven by lower net interstate outflows and higher net overseas inflows.
  • New South Wales’ annual population growth continues to slow. Lower NOM, driven by an increasing number of overseas departures in the most recent quarter, has continued this trend.
  • 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 to fewer interstate arrivals.
  • Compared to a year ago, the Australian Capital Territory’s annual population growth has slowed more than any other state or territory. Falling NIM and NOM are driving this decline.
  • South Australia has recorded annual population growth of 1 per cent for the first time since 2012, driven by smaller net interstate outflows and higher NOM.
  • While the Northern Territory still has negative population growth, the rate of decline slowed mainly due to smaller net interstate outflows compared to the year to March 2019.
  • COVID-19 and net overseas migration

    The March quarter of 2020 was when policy measures were introduced to manage the impact of COVID-19 in Australia. NOM was immediately affected by successive restrictions on international travellers. By 20 March, only Australian citizens and permanent residents could enter Australia, including New Zealanders normally resident in Australia.

    Despite these travel bans, the number of arrivals in the March quarter was the highest since the early 1980s (when NOM began to be reported on a quarterly basis). This was due in part to the record number of Australian citizens, previously resident overseas, returning to Australia over the year to March 2020. Similarly, the level of departures by temporary residents in each quarter in the year to March was around record levels on a quarterly basis. On an annual basis, the number of arrivals and departures were at record highs.