04/12/2020 - 14:30

COVID clips long-term population growth

04/12/2020 - 14:30

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Western Australia’s population is set to grow by just 0.4 per cent in the current financial year, with COVID-19 reducing projected growth by 100,000 over the coming decade.

COVID clips long-term population growth
WA's population growth rate is projected to fall to just 0.4 per cent in 2020-21. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Western Australia’s population is set to grow by just 0.4 per cent in the current financial year, with COVID-19 reducing projected growth by 100,000 over the coming decade.

The Australian government’s Centre for Population expects WA’s population to expand from 2.6 million people currently to 3 million by the year 2031.

That is 3 per cent, or 93,700 people, fewer compared to pre-COVID-19 projections.

The state’s population growth rate is projected to fall to just 0.4 per cent in 2020-21 and 0.5 per cent next financial year.

The centre expects WA’s population growth rate will recover to 1.3 per cent by 2024.

It assumes that net interstate migration from WA will return to the 20-year average by 2023, meaning WA will lose about 530 people a year in net terms.

The centre also assumes the state will get a boost from temporary and skilled migrants coming into the state after 2024.

The new forecasts will likely feed into state government planning.

Its most recent planning framework, ‘Perth and Peel@3.5 million’, released by the Western Australian Planning Commission in 2018, was based on projections that the metropolitan area would have a population of 3.5 million by 2050.

That projection was already considered overly optimistic, in light of the fall in WA’s population growth rate from more than three per cent a year during the resources construction boom.

The centre expects COVID-19 will have a larger impact nationally than in WA.

Australia’s population is projected to grow by just 0.2 per cent in 2020-21 and 0.4 per cent next financial year.

This represents the slowest population growth since 1916, in the midst of WW1.

The main reason is that net overseas migration will go from annual growth of about 200,000 to minus 72,000.

The centre’s forecasts assume that international arrivals are restricted while onshore migrants on temporary visas are assumed to depart as normal.

One factor that will soften the impact is the expectation a record number of Australian expatriates will return home.

Australian citizens are assumed to be net immigrants over the 10-year forecast period, which is a reversal of the historical pattern whereby a net 15,000 Australians move overseas each year.

The centre’s report concludes that Australia’s population will grow to around 28.8 million by 2031.

This is 4 per cent, or 1.1 million people, fewer than it would have been in the absence of COVID-19.

Melbourne is projected to become Australia’s largest city with 6.2 million people, ahead of Sydney with 6.0 million people.

The Centre expects long-term population growth will be around 1.2 per cent a year, down from 1.6 per cent over the past decade.

The main driver is the decline in Australia’s fertility rate, similar to other developed countries.

The replacement rate – needed to keep a steady population – is 2.1 babies per woman.

The actual rate has fallen to 1.66 per cent, the lowest on record, and is assumed to fall further as Australian families continue to have children later in life and have fewer children when they do.

The Centre for Population was established in 2019 to inject more expertise into analysis of Australia’s demographic trends.

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