Population and Migration: Understanding the Numbers

Key points

These key points summarise the Population and Migration: Understanding the Numbers Commission research paper released on 9 December 2010.

See also: Media release

  • Since the 1980s, net overseas migration has overtaken natural increase as the major contributor to Australia's population growth.
  • Although the total fertility rate in Australia has risen recently, it is still only half what it was in the early 1960s.
  • Over the past century, life expectancy has increased significantly. This has mitigated the decline in natural increase and been the main contributor to the ageing of Australia's population.
  • Migration flows are shaped by the economic and social motivations of migrants and by government policy in Australia.
    • Only the permanent migrant intake is controlled directly by the government, but migration is also influenced indirectly through other policy settings and conditions.
  • Net overseas migration has grown strongly during the past ten years, with most of the growth being in the 'temporary' categories.
    • Temporary migration contributes to Australia's population growth in the long term as well as short term. In the last five years, many overseas students and skilled temporary migrant workers obtained permanent residency onshore.
  • The Humanitarian Program is a small component of the total migrant intake. Refugee visas granted to unauthorised arrivals do not increase its size.
  • Australia's population is highly urbanised. In recent years, population growth in capital cities has exceeded growth in most other parts of the country.
  • Future population levels are sensitive to even minor variations in the components of population change and cannot be predicted with accuracy.
  • The economic effects of immigration and population growth are diverse, depending on source, composition and context.
Background information
Lisa Gropp (Acting First Assistant Commissioner) 03 9653 2392