Thursday, June 21, 2012

Census: We've lost 300,000 Australians

AUSTRALIA lost almost 300,000 people on the way to last year's census. The census count suggests that Australia's population growth since 2006 was much smaller than previously estimated, especially in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

In its first release of census-based data, the Bureau of Statistics has slashed its estimate of the population in mid-2011 from 22.6 million people to 22.3 million. The cut of 294,400 is equivalent to wiping away roughly a year's population growth.

Based on the census findings, the bureau estimates that at June 30 last year, Queensland had 106,000 fewer residents than earlier reported. NSW lost 91,000 people, Victoria 87,000, and South Australia 18,000.

By contrast, the census found slightly more people than expected living in WA, Tasmania and the territories.

Despite the downgrade, Victoria still added more people than any other state between 2006 and 2011, growing by 408,000 or 8 per cent. NSW added 395,400 people, growing just 5.8 per cent.

The bureau will spend the next year working out what was wrong with its earlier estimates. In an explanation yesterday, it gave several possible reasons, including errors in the 2006 census figures, or in the records of births and deaths, or in estimating the real size of net overseas migration.

Yesterday's figures are only preliminary, with final post-census results to be released in a year's time. The bureau next month will publish revised estimates of city and regional populations, which are likely to slash population estimates for the main cities, other than Perth.

Its updated figures show WA streaking ahead in population as well as economic growth. By the end of December, Australia's population had edged up to 22.5 million, growing by 1.4 per cent, but WA was growing at more than twice that rate.

Over 2011, WA outgrew Queensland in absolute numbers for the first time, its population growing by 67,400 or 2.9 per cent while Queensland grew 66,500 or 1.5 per cent.

Victoria again had the biggest growth in numbers, its population rising 75,400 or 1.4 per cent, while NSW grew by 71,000 or 1 per cent. On December 31 NSW had an estimated 7,250,000 people, and Victoria 5,575,000.

Net emigration from NSW to other states jumped sharply in 2011, from 11,240 to 16,100. Victoria again had slightly more people arriving than leaving, gaining a net 3330 from other states. But the main shifts were to Queensland, which gained a net 9600 people, and WA, which took in a record 8460 net arrivals from the rest of Australia.

The first census data also reveals that Australians are getting older, with the median Australian now aged 37.3 years, a sharp rise from 32.4 years in 1991. The proportion of Australians who have faced 65 candles on their birthday cake has grown from 11.3 per cent in 1991 to 13.8 per cent in 2011.