Booms in migrants and babies
By Carol Nader
The Age (Melbourne), March 19, 2009
Australia's population has jumped to 21.5 million, fuelled by the highest migration boom in almost 40 years.
New Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that for the year to September 2008, the population grew by 389,000 people, or 1.84 per cent. Migration was the main driver, accounting for 235,900 more people.
The figures come just days after the Federal Government announced it would cut the intake of skilled migrants by 18,500 over the next three months, less than a year after increasing the intake to record levels. The move is designed to protect local jobs in the wake of the deepening financial crisis.
The baby boom is also continuing, with 295,200 babies born in that year.
Natural increase – the difference between births and deaths – added 153,400 to the population.
Diala Raad, from the ABS, said the population growth was the highest it had been since 1970. Rises then were the result of the continuing post-war migration of the '50s and '60s and high birth rates.
Peter McDonald, head of demographics at the Australian National University, said the growth in migration was being driven by temporary migrants.
'To be counted in the population you have to be in Australia for 12 months, and there are a lot more people now who are in Australia on a temporary basis who stay for 12 months or more,' he said.
'The biggest aspect of this increase in migration is the number of overseas students in Australia, and even in the current year the number of overseas students are still going up even in this recession year. So I think we can expect overseas migration to remain high while the overseas students keep rising.'
Professor McDonald said in that context the Government's moves to cut the number of skilled migrants probably would not have a big impact on migration numbers. He said Australians who were living overseas might return to Australia during the recession, adding to the numbers, and migrants from New Zealand might also rise, given the state of the economy in that country was worse than it was here.
He said the number of people applying to come to Australia as temporary workers on the 457 visa – who can stay up to four years – seemed to be declining. 'It's supposed to be demand-driven, and if the demand drops off, then the number of applications for this visa will fall, and that seems to be happening.'
The figures show that Victoria also experienced population growth of 1.8 per cent, bringing the state's population to 5,340,000.
EDITORS NOTE: The ABS figures are available online at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3101.0?OpenDocument