The Rise and Rise of Australia’s Population

Monday, October 30, 2017

Australia has increased its population by one third in the last 20 years, from 18.5 million in 1997 to 24.7 million people currently. But more remarkable is that this record population growth has exceeded all forecasts. 

In 1998, the Australian Bureau of Statistics predicted that, based on low-growth assumptions, Australia’s population would reach 23.5 million people in 2051, a benchmark it went on to achieve in July 2014. The mid-growth forecast of 24.9 million people by 2051 will be reached in the middle of next year, 33 years early! The upper end forecast of 26.4 million, based on high-growth assumptions, will be reached in mid-2021, less than four years away.

What has caused such population growth?

The current growth patterns of Australia will lead us to a population of 38 million by 2051, around 12 million higher than even the high-ball forecasts of the late 1990’s. It’s not that the calculations were wrong, it’s that migration policy changes as well as longevity increases and a solid birth rate have defied the trends that were evident twenty years ago.

Back then it was assumed that the total fertility rate (babies per woman in a lifetime) would remain low. However, today’s TFR of 1.81 is above even the highest assumption allowed for in the 1990’s of 1.75.

It was also thought that life expectancy at birth would hit a high of 82 for males and 86 for females by 2051. However, current life expectancy is already closing in on 81 for males and 85 for females and will reach these 2051 targets decades early.

Net Overseas Migration the biggest growth factor

The biggest growth factor that has blown out previous population modelling has been the rise and rise of Australia’s net overseas migration. In 1998 it was thought that it would grow our population annually by around 70,00, or at the most, 90,000. In the last 12 months, Australia has added 231,900 through net migration which is more than 2.5 times even the high-forecast of two decades ago.

Expected growth for our major cities

The expectations for our largest cities back in this era were also well below what has eventuated. This 1998 report expected Melbourne to reach a population of between 3.6 and 4.5 million by 2051. It is currently well above this range at 4.8 million. Sydney was predicted to reach between 4.7 and 6.2 million by the middle of this century. It is currently around 5.1 million and will reach the higher forecast within a decade, 23 years early.

Australia's population growth among the highest in the developed world

While the late 1990’s may not seem like that long ago- John Howard was Prime Minister and Bill Clinton was the US President, the last two decades have seen significant shifts in our demographic trends. Back then, slowing population growth was responded to with policy changes like the baby bonus and efforts to increase overseas migration. Australia’s population growth is now one of the highest in the developed world. 

We have added 390,000 people to our population in the last 12 months, which is like adding three cities the size of Darwin to our population each year. Sydney is now home to more people than the whole country of New Zealand. Speaking of which, New Zealand, back in 1998 was expected to reach 4.7 million in 2050- its population currently exceeds 4.8 million. Melbourne is growing even faster and rather than having 1.7 million fewer people than Sydney in 2051 as was predicted, it will likely overtake Sydney to be Australia’s largest city by this year.

Lessons to be learnt

The lesson for policy makers, urban planners and governments alike, is to keep a close eye on the population forecasts and plan early for the growth that is being experienced so that our cities are not left short of infrastructure. While population growth can’t realistically be stopped, it must be better planned for and managed to ensure the Australian lifestyle continues. And when in doubt, assume the higher growth forecasts not the lower ones. I’m yet to see an Australian population forecast that needs adjusting down.

Mark McCrindle, Demographer and Social Researcher

Welcome to our blog...

We have a passion for research that tells a story, that can be presented visually, that brings about change and improves organisations. And we hope these resources help you know the times.

Our Social Media Sites

Facebook | McCrindle Research Social Media YouTube | McCrindle Research Social Media Twitter | McCrindle Research Social Media Flickr | McCrindle Research Social Media Pinterest | McCrindle Research Social Media Google Plus | McCrindle Research Social Media LinkedIn | McCrindle Research Social Media Mark McCrindle Slideshare

Last 150 Articles


vegetarian workforce business performance non profit royal influence house price rise typical australian sports child care South Australia government divorce staying in global retail Financial Planning Association 1980 Australian communities focus group goals safe suburbs communicate royal baby Australia Day rising house prices women culturally diverse domestic increasing densification growth statistics social analysis Word Up Real Estate Institute of Victoria internet TEDx McCrindle Speakers local communities Population Clock live the dream learn states generation alpha australians staying home more conference speaker hills gen z census ashley mckenzie pyrmont average sydneysider charity optus education future report New Zealand program the great screenage click mobile overcast communications coffee lovers conferences 2016 Black Friday Sales social researcher System's Architect daily telegraph sunny days office space optimistic school satisfaction communities google volunteers aged care population milestone wolloomooloo 2016 census mccrindle research technology environmental scanning gig economy demographic transformations Jura Australia shopping graphs megatrends data organisational culture Christchurch financial independence Adelaide VET food insecurity 2014 etiquette omnibus career ABS millenials volunteer visual local community princess charlotte visualisation WA Royals gender world youth day ageing households household social impact office opening Northern Territory Gen Y donation group alpha engage Australian Bureau of Statistics sun summer ACF17 cars Res Vis baby business conference school 2017 tableau presentations builders anzac speakers baby name australian communities forum digital language eliane miles annual income men NBRS earning the changing face of Do It Yourself relevant winter future of shopping changing face of sydney micro retirement teach What is food insecurity? CPI The Daily Edition research visualisation demography ease of travel easy rider Geoff Brailey online shopping affordability tv sentiments forecasting training global generations REIV National Conference ACT group session cancelling event marriages list future-proof census data Births socialising Christmas season dreams criminal collaboration keynote christian Research Executive holiday researcher suburban living victoria Myth baby names report media release February 16 Social Trend data visualisation data analyst norwest Sydney dream national crime rates commute hobart internship Northern Beaches Christian School income blaxland housing trends the hills shire work from home social trends national private wealth coffee Skilling networking Northern Beaches finance Engineering Manager crows nest motivate 24,000,000 supply and demand father's day social commentary hills shire purpose friends church NT storytelling Queensland teacher careers shifts English Assistant Store Manager media activity litter university growing population entrepreneurial Australian Population employers Gen X insights Queensland: QLD royal unemployment VET sector sydneysiders cost of living baby name predictions lalor park Black Friday food bank small business dessert growth of sydney the hills pharmacies teaching social researchers faux-cilising rich breakfast The ABC of XYZ resilience learning REIV Conference seasons Sydney’s south west high density apartments grave decision social issues McCridle demographic chairty internships year 12 baby names trends of 2017 analysis skills Melbourne cold World Water Day screenagers house price work-life Northern beaches Event housing market poker master future proof staff twentyseventeen relational Tasmania millionth trend tuesday poor earn mythbusting rain salary mortgage parents sector wide study hopes repayments australian social research keynote speaker teachers EFF financial future property price sydney event financial New South Wales collaborative baby boomers Financial Planning Association of Australia faith resource wealth living property toys wellbeing FPA australian community trends report video not for profit research transport public transport 1994 Mount Annan-Currant Hill Australia street daily commute Aussies bondi stay home belief SA economy wages cash innovation Hornsby Shire Council research services youth australia long weekend meals employment qualitative research Vocational education TAS volunteering data not-for-profit celebration moreton bay water 10 years case study Bathburst clothing Valentine’s Day mccrinlde snapshot huffington post giving wealth inequality census results social lives participants baby boom real slideshare New Zeland debt royal family sydney speaker vegemite wealth distribution insight Netflix high density living spend tips social shifts personal growth workplace Scouts mccrindle Macquarie University gig australian real estate office life NEETs workshop budget jobs students ferry politics religion Generation Y contiki urban taskforce PSI cultural diveristy thrive woolworths interactive rise of local geomapping student Sydney population renter of the future NSW personalities population map aged care puzzle outsourcing research report marrickville year 7 census fail Education Future Forum population growth professional speaker 1968 Lower Hunter Region Kirsten Brewer commuting average Australian cancelling plans donate organisations suburb choice workers meetings generations innovative post rationalism Kiwi low density capital city SMART education research social change digital economy Willowdale future paying to work newspaper trends analyst debate earnings faux-cilise VIC travel residents grandparents land of the middle class social hello fresh 2015 Australian schools emerging generations thought leadership cloudy days JOMO mythbusters younger generations who is generation z TED socialites townhouses winter blues DIY Western Australia learning styles professional presenters easter HSC financial dreams medicine not for profit hornsby entrepreneur social commentator couple Charlotte Tuesday Trend education forecast house prices ACF 2016 cost Hills Shire Council monarchy proactive #censusfail commuters publication australian communities trends report wedding professional unaffordable environment community engagement marketing volunteering define survey design cartodb Hunter Valley Australian demographics facts Australian Communities Trends Channel Seven care support manly the average aussie emerging technologies affordable Australian Census ethnography university degree parenting media Lower Hunter recap employmee trend going out lifestyle home owner identity January 26th moderators guide brand award mother's day australian sunburnt country casual report Tuesday Trends happiness area the australian dream waverton market research consumer educhat mover and shaker sector wide Elderslie-Harrington park families national wealth 2016 census results speaker ashley fell Australian community trends ultimo new york times spirituality NFP event healthy future trends fresh focus groups James Ward millennials future of education local Financial Planning Week entrepreneurs of today employmer NBRS Architecture ipswich dreaming work mates investor TED talk social life leadership workshop divorce rate society Australian Home US schools students darwin Duchess of Cambridge train IT Specialists cica 1975 sydneysider product conference presentation Performance Sentiment Index public speaking leader trades quote 23 million GPO shopping centre cancel plans Mark McCrindle in the media prince george urban living index fears generational trends change community census 2016 world award winner Territory 2012 offenders wealth and income FOMO 24 million faux-ciliser entertainment Christmas lunch sustainable gold coast in depth interviews investment Christmas presents Sydney Hills Business Chamber charities study mateship education sector presentation Mark McCrindle Business analysis middle class tattoos speajer research pack experience professional services housing car economic business index consumerism balance workplace culture average aussie Australian Families weekly earnings mining boom home ownership generation rental stress pharmacy demographer house ACF menai public speaker city Generation X authenticity Wodonga crime Wellington Black Friday in Australia intern impact hunger tertiary education goal global financial crisis acf15 state deloitte logan future proofing "know the times" know the times Work place apartments tuesday buildings wage professional development brands brisbane TDE customer emerging trends christianity Australians education future event Jura Coffee renting community event in the media Australian Trends survey demographic trends schools research on coffee demographics results school students cultural diversity urban living christmas kate middleton leadership new office sydney metro society trends 2013 names online Wagga Wagga social research energy stats future of work aussie culture food shbc Andrew Duffin Research Director infographics research data financial fears Real Estate gen alpha panel infographic young australians Maxim Accounting media commentary nfp property market Canberra plans capital cities social enquiry public holiday Cobbitty-Leppington home story learner mentor bureau challenge high density follow generation Z population trends of 2016 ACF2017 baby names australia report ACT Report neutral bay eliane communication investing the lucky country work responsive forum apartment Aussie mccrindle in the media social analyst sector 2020 DESTEL CBD sydney hills google for education micro apartments high school jobs of the future Love sydneycity housing growth family 40 million Crime Rates Caregiver global Retail news narcissism events culture infographic wall research futurist engagement ageing population teleworking dare to dream housing affordability brand experience holidays speakers pack equip marriage mccrindle tea friendship young people educated Deaths curiosity wealth and income distribution cooking showreel selfie children potts point optus my business awards bus perth urban priorities owning a home SMSF village screenage social media travelling greatness Merry Christmas SRE weather Australia Day 2017 shopper's pick Sydney keynote speaker youth unemployment ideas Channel 7 money rule keeper rent baby name trends tea financial planning Australian Dream