Sometime this week Australia’s population has, or will, hit 24 million people. That places it as the 52nd most populous country in the world (just behind Angola and ahead of Cameroon). In the last financial year there were nearly twice as many births (304,000) as deaths (155,000) which means that the country is currently experiencing healthy natural population increase of 148,000 per year. The numbers of those born comes from a fertility rate of 1.8 children per woman. This rate is slightly down on the last few years, but is higher than it was 10 or 20 years ago.  

Overall Australia’s population is growing at 1.4% per year: a rate far in excess of New Zealand and the USA (0.7%) and Britain (0.6%) and China (0.5%) and Japan (-0.2%). This is not, however, mainly due to its natural increase but to immigration. According to the report Australia’s Migration Trends 2013-14 since 2005 net overseas migration (those coming into the country less those leaving) has exceeded the growth due to natural increase. For the year ending December 2013, net overseas migration accounted for nearly 60% of the population growth. Overall a quarter of Australia’s population (6.4 million people) is foreign born. The major countries of origin for these immigrants are:

  • The UK (1.2 million)
  • New Zealand (600,000)
  • China (428,000)
  • India (370,000)
  • Vietnam (215,000)

However, the makeup of Australia’s population has changed markedly since the turn of the century:

“In the past 17 years the number of China-born Australian residents has more than tripled to 427,590 people. This rate of growth was surpassed by India-born residents, which increased more than four-fold to 369,680 people over the same period while Australian residents born in the United Kingdom increased by only 5.0 per cent to 1,222,570.”

So while Australia is growing it is, like many other western countries, largely relying on immigration for that growth. Indeed if Australia’s fertility rate remains below 2.1 then it will start to rely on immigration to prevent its population from declining. Due to this immigration, Australia’s cultural composition is changing and will continue to do so in the future.

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...