This page was written by the Centre for Population at Treasury for the AIHW.

Australia’s population story has historically been one of strong growth. Australia’s population (see Glossary) was 25.7 million at 30 June 2021, having grown around 1.3% a year on average over the 30 years since it was 17.3 million at 30 June 1991. Australia’s population is concentrated in the major cities, which are home to 72% of the total population. By contrast, 26% live in inner and outer regional Australia, with the remainder (around 2%) living in Remote and very remote areas (see Demographic snapshot 2020–21).

Over this period:

  • Net overseas migration was the main driver of population growth, increasing from a net inflow of around 86,000 people in 1990–91 to 193,000 people in 2019–20, directly contributing around half of total population growth over the whole period. The introduction of international border restrictions in response to the pandemic led to the first net outflow of migrants from Australia since World War II (-90,000 people in 2020–21). The share of Australian residents born overseas was 29% at the end of 2020–21 (see Demographic snapshot 2020–21).
  • Natural increase (number of births minus number of deaths) decreased from 142,000 people in 1990–91 to 135,000 people in 2020–21, contributing the other half of population growth over this period:
    • Fertility rates have declined, from 1.88 babies per woman in 1990–91 to 1.62 in 2020–21.
    • Life expectancies at birth have continued to increase, from 74.4 years for males and 80.3 years for females in 1991, to 81.2 years for males and 85.3 years for females in the three-year period between 2018 to 2020.
    • The number of deaths has grown faster than the number of births over this period, reflecting the declining fertility rate and ageing of the population.
  • Australia’s population has grown older, with the median age increasing from 32.4 years at 30 June 1991 to 38.2 years at 30 June 2021. Along the age distribution, the 30–39 age band are the largest cohort (see Demographic snapshot 2020–21).

Most recently, Australia’s population growth has been affected by the pandemic, and the measures taken to limit the spread of the disease. International border restrictions significantly lowered net overseas migration, leading Australia’s population growth to fall to 0.2% in 2020–21.  

The results on this page largely reflect the impacts of the pandemic in Australia in 2020–21. They do not cover the periods relating to outbreaks of the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19 in the second half of 2021 and in 2022.

Other longer-term trends present before the pandemic continue to affect the size and distribution of the population, such as the ongoing decline in the fertility rate, the decline in the rate of internal migration, and the slower rate of mortality improvement observed in recent years.


Demographic snapshot 2020-21 data visualisation

Census of population and housing 2021

On 28 June 2022, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released data from the 2021 Census of population and housing. Based on the 2021 Census:

  • Australia’s population was 25,766,605 people at 31 December 2021
  • annual growth was 128,000 people (0.5%)
  • annual natural increase was 138,500 and net overseas migration was -3,600 (ABS 2022d).

Following each Census, the ABS uses new information to update population estimates, known as the Estimated Resident Population (ERP) for Australia and its states and territories. The revised estimates released by the ABS on 28 June are preliminary rebased population estimates, final population estimates will be available in June 2023, see Methodology used in rebased population estimates, June 2021 for more detail).

Results presented on the rest of this page were prepared by the Centre for Population prior to the release of estimates based on the 2021 Census. Updated figures based on revised estimates from the 2021 Census, will be included in future updates.

Overview of past population growth and trends

Australia’s population growth from 30 June 1991 to 30 June 2021 averaged 1.3% a year. As shown in Figure 1, natural increase has been relatively steady, while there have been fluctuations in net overseas migration. Natural increase was briefly the main driver of population growth during the early 1990s, but net overseas migration has consistently contributed more to population growth from 2005–06 until the pandemic (2020–21). When averaged over the whole period, both natural increase and net overseas migration both contributed around half of population growth.

More than two‑thirds (68%) of Australia’s population lived in the 8 capital cities at 30 June 2021, increasing from 65% at 30 June 1991. Over this period, most capital cities grew faster than their respective rest-of-state areas up until 2020–21 when regional areas grew at a faster rate than capital cities for the first time since 1993–94.

Population growth in Australia has varied widely across cities and regions and has been shaped by flows of internal and overseas migration and varied contributions from natural increase.

Figure 1: Components of population change, Australia, 1990–91 to 2020–21

A chart showing the contributions of net overseas migration, and natural increase to Australia’s historical population growth. Australia’s population growth from 30 June 1991 to 30 June 2021 averaged 1.3% a year. While the contribution from natural increase has been steady, there have been fluctuations in net overseas migration. Since 2005-06, net overseas migration has contributed more to population growth than natural increase. Although there was a net outflow of migrants in 2020-21, natural increase meant that population growth, although low, was not negative.

Natural increase

Since the late 2000s, natural increase has added around 150,000 people a year to the Australian population. Over the past 30 years, the total fertility rate has fallen from 1.88 babies per woman in 1990–91 to 1.62 in 2020–21. Life expectancies at birth have increased and are among the highest in the world. Despite these improvements, the number of deaths has grown faster than the number of births. While the level of natural increase has been steady over this period, it has become smaller as a proportion of the population.

The full impact of the COVID–19 pandemic on births is not yet fully observable in official statistics. Early data suggests that the pandemic has not had an adverse impact on Australia’s births. The September 2021 release of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National, State and Territory population data shows that annual births registered over the year ending 30 September 2021 was 304,000, an increase of 7,700 births from the year ending 30 September 2020. This is similar to the number of births in the equivalent period in 2019 (304,000 births).

In Australia, doctor-certified COVID-19-related deaths in 2021 (149,000) were higher than the number of doctor-certified COVID-19-related deaths in 2020 (142,000) and the average number of deaths over the previous 5 years (141,000) (ABS 2022e). However, age standardised death rates (see Glossary) for total doctor-certified deaths in 2021 were below the 2015–19 historical average. This suggests that the increase in deaths in 2021 in Australia (when compared with 2015–19) reflects a larger and older population rather than an increase in mortality. Across the majority of 2020 and 2021, weekly deaths due to respiratory diseases were lower than the average from 2015 to 2019. 

For more information on COVID-19 in Australia, see 'Chapter 1 The impact of a new disease: COVID-19 from 2020, 2021 and into 2022' in Australia's health 2022: data insights.

Net overseas migration

Net overseas migration was the main driver of Australia’s population growth in the years prior to the pandemic (Figure 1). The introduction of international border restrictions in early-2020 lowered net overseas migration to 193,000 persons in 2019–20, below the 5-year average of 227,000 persons. Net overseas migration declined further to -90,000 persons in 2020–21, which was the first recorded net outflow since World War II. Despite the easing of international and domestic restrictions, significant uncertainty remains around the extent to which future migration patterns will be affected.  

Net interstate migration

Australia has high rates of internal migration (the number of people who move within Australia as a proportion of the total population), although this has been declining over time (ABS 2018).

The rate of interstate migration – or the number of people who move interstate as a proportion of the total population – tends to decline in times of economic shocks and recessions, and recover afterwards.

In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer people moved interstate in Australia, with a 9% drop in the number of interstate moves from 2018–19 (404,000) to 2019–20 (369,000).

Australia’s population in a global context

Prior to the pandemic, Australia’s population growth rate was higher than that of most developed countries. In 2019 it was 1.5%, which is well above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s country average of 0.5% (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Population growth by country, 1990 to 2020

A chart showing annual population growth of Australia, and a number of other countries.

In 2020, Australia’s total fertility rate was higher than that of Italy, Japan, Canada, and Germany, but lower than France, New Zealand, and the United States. Australia and other developed countries have generally experienced declines in fertility since the end of the baby boom of the mid-1960s (World Bank 2020).

In 2020, Australia’s life expectancy at birth for males and females was the seventh highest in the world (World Bank 2020).

Population ageing

Australia’s overall population has been growing older over time, with the share of people aged 65 and over increasing from 11% in 1990–91 to 17% in 2020–21. Australia’s population ageing has been driven by low fertility and increasing life expectancy.

Australian capital cities tend to be younger and age more slowly than the rest-of-state areas. This is mainly because capital cities have historically attracted a larger share of net overseas migrants, who tend to be younger than the overall population. In addition, younger people tend to move into capital cities from the rest-of-state areas to pursue educational and job opportunities. These trends more than offset fertility rates generally being higher and life expectancies generally being lower in rest-of-state areas.

Australia’s future population

Australia’s population growth and geographic distribution has been heavily influenced by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is expected to continue over the next few years. The size of the population is expected to be around 884,000 people or 1.7% smaller by 2030–31 compared with what was projected prior to the onset of the pandemic. Figure 3 illustrates the population growth projections in the 2022–23 Budget.

Figure 3: Projected population growth and components, Australia, 2018–19 to 2032–33

A chart showing projections of Australia’s population growth, detailing the yearly contribution of net overseas migration and natural increase. Australia’s population growth is forecast to increase from 0.2% in 2020-21 to 0.7% in 2021-22. As travel returns to pre‐pandemic conditions, population growth is projected to increase to 1.4% by 2024-25 and then gradually decline to 1.2% by the end of the medium-term in 2032-33. Natural increase is projected to drive most of Australia’s population growth in 2021-22, with net overseas migration forecast to contribute strongly to population growth from 2022-23.

Future population growth is projected to increase from 0.2% in 2020–21 (the slowest recorded financial year growth since 1916–17), to 0.7% in 2021–22 and 1.2% in 2022–23. Australia’s population growth is forecast to peak at 1.4% in 2024–25, when net overseas migration is assumed to have fully recovered to pre-pandemic trends, before gradually declining to around 1.2% by 30 June 2033. By this time, Australia’s population is projected to be 29.8 million.

Natural increase drove all of Australia’s population growth in 2020–21 and is also projected to drive most of Australia’s population growth in 2021–22. Net overseas migration is forecast to return to being the largest contributor to population growth from 2022–23.

Natural increase

Consistent with the observed long-run trend, natural increase is projected to continue to decline over the next ten years from around 135,000 people in 2020–21 to around 113,000 in 2032–33. This decline is the result of an increase in the number of babies being born being outweighed by a larger rise in the number of annual deaths due to an older population.

The total fertility rate is expected to continue its long run declining trajectory from 1.66 babies per woman in 2021–22 to 1.62 babies per woman by 2030–31. This decline reflects the trend of women having children later in life and having fewer children when they do.

Australia’s future mortality is assumed not to be affected by the COVID‐19 pandemic and the effect of mortality on population growth is expected to continue as previously anticipated. Total deaths are forecast to rise gradually from 163,000 in 2020–21 to 184,000 in 2025–26, and again to 213,000 by 2032–33, in line with the increasing size and ageing of the Australian population.

Net interstate migration

The COVID-19 pandemic reduced net internal migration across Australia as state governments temporarily closed domestic borders, locked down major cities and restricted travel in some regional areas. The number of people migrating interstate nationally fell 9% in 2019–20 and is assumed to slow again in 2021–22. However, with the easing of movement restrictions, the level of interstate migration is assumed to pick up, increasing by 6% in 2022–23 and in 2023–24 as well, where it is forecast to return to pre-pandemic levels. The distribution of interstate migration is also assumed to return to pre-pandemic historical averages by 2023–24.

Net overseas migration

Net overseas migration is the component of population change that has been most affected by the pandemic owing to international travel restrictions put in place to limit the spread of the virus. With the reopening of Australia’s international border on 15 December 2021, net overseas migration is forecast to increase to a net inflow of 41,000 persons in 2021–22 before returning to 235,000 persons and stabilising at pre-pandemic trends by 2024–25. 

States and territories

Population growth is forecast to recover in most states and territories in 2021–22, mostly due to the reopening of international borders and return of overseas migration. Queensland is forecast to be the fastest growing state in 2021–22 and 2022–23, supported by strong net interstate migration from the other states and territories. From 2023–24 onwards, Victoria is expected to become the fastest growing state driven by strong net overseas migration and a return to positive net internal migration. All states and territories are forecast to return to pre-pandemic population trends by 2023–24.

Where do I go for more information?

For detailed discussion of Australia’s population see:

For the latest population projections see:

For longer term population projections see:

This page was written by the Australian Government Centre for Population.

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (2018) Population shift: understanding internal migration in AustraliaABS, Australian Government, accessed 4 May 2022.

ABS (2021) National, state and territory population, June 2021, ABS, Australian Government, accessed 4 April 2022.

ABS (2022a) National, state and territory population, September 2021, ABS, Australian Government, accessed 4 April 2022.

ABS (2022b) Regional population, 2020-21 financial year, ABS, Australian Government, accessed 4 April 2022.

ABS (2022c) Australia’s population by country of birth, 2021, ABS, Australian Government, accessed 26 April 2022.

ABS (2022d) National, state and territory population, December 2021, ABS, Australian Government, accessed 28 June 2022.

ABS (2022e) Provisional mortality statistics, March 2022, ABS, Australian Government, accessed 4 April 2022.

Centre for Population (2021) Population statement, December 2021, Centre for Population, Australian Government, accessed 4 April 2022.

The Treasury (2022) 2022-23 Budget: Australia’s future population, The Treasury, Australian Government, accessed 6 April 2022.

World Bank (2020) World Bank open data, World Bank, accessed 30 June 2021.