Migrants driving population growth as Australia hits 24 million


While a newborn traditionally marked population milestones, new migrants have driven Australia's population growth in recent years. Is Australia's population 24 million going on 40 million?

Ida Rolinah moved to Australia from Indonesia in late 2014.

Given she's now been here for more than 12 months, she's included for the first time statistically in the population.

"I have my qualification diploma [in] hairdressing and I tried to find a job after I got my bridging visa, and I've had a part-time job for about five months," Ms Rolinah said.

Ms Rolinah lives with her husband, who entered Australia in 1996 as a refugee from Former Yugoslavia, and their daughter.

"I'm lucky to have a beautiful daughter and we try to raise our children like the same as other parents," she said. "I want to give good education to my daughter and find some positive ways her."

Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr, however, is concerned Australia's population is expanding too quickly and says there's a case for pegging back immigration by 50 per cent.

"People wonder why their youngsters can't get housing in the big cities and the answer is we are going for breakneck population growth and it's all about supply and demand," he said.

Australia's population hit 24 million at 12:50am (AEDT) Tuesday, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The ABS estimates Australia's population changes at the rate of: one birth every one minute and 44 seconds, one death every three minutes and 24 seconds and a net gain of one international migration every two minutes and 39 seconds.

Assistant Treasurer Alex Hawke says there is scope for growth.

"When you travel all around the world I think all of us know that Australia has a very small population on a very large continent and we can certainly sustain more people and we can sustain them in a good quality of living and in a harmonious society as well," he said.

Migrants contributing to growth

The ABS data shows the Australian population grows by one every minute and a half.

"Australia's population has added this recent million in record time, less than three years, so the population has added about 317,000 in the last year alone," social researcher Mark McCrindle said.

And it is migrants who have contributed to population growth the most since 2006.

While it's eased from its 2009 peak of 66 per cent, net overseas migration contributed to 53 per cent of total growth last year. The remaining 47 per cent is due to natural increases (births minus deaths).

"Migration is really the engine room of Australia's population growth and the workforce," Mr McCrindle said.

See the ABS' population clock here.

"We've got an ageing workforce here, we've got whole sectors here that are really underpinned by skilled migration - from agriculture to the construction sector."

The ABS says 72 per cent of Australia's population was born in Australia, that's down from 81.2 per cent in 1968, when Australia's population was 12 million.

Chris Richardson from Deloitte Access Economics says migration addresses the skills shortage.

"Anybody who puts up their hand to take a job earns an income, spends the income, and that creates the next job," he said.

The composition of Australia's migrant population has also changed. Mr McCrindle said more were coming from Asia.

"Three decades ago, the top countries of birth of Australians born overseas were European countries, plus New Zealand," he said.

"Today in the top five, along with New Zealand and England, you've got China, India and Vietnam."

At 1.4 per cent Australia's annual population growth rate is relatively high.

New Zealand, the US, the UK and China are at just above half a per cent, while Japan's population is decreasing.

The ABS projects Australia's population will reach 25 million in 2018 and will keep rising by a million persons every two to three years.

Mr McCrindle said he thought 40 million was just a few decades away.

"By 2050 based on the current growth trend, we'll have a population of 40 million, we'll be more densified and a lot more of us will be living in vertical communities, not just the horizontal ones, if we can build the infrastructure, we'll maintain the lifestyle that we know today," he said.

We'll have a definite population count when 10 million households across the country complete the 2016 Census on August 9.

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