Population Growth in Australia Has Normalized

Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph contained an interesting article on the increasing number of Australians departing Australia permanently:

OVERALL migration from Australia has soared to a record high – with 88,000 leaving in the past year, almost half from NSW.

The stampede abroad is a 90 per cent increase 10 years ago, figures from the Department of Immigration show.

Half the emigrants are Australian-born who have chosen to start new lives in Britain (15,119), New Zealand, (14,596), the US (8046 and Singapore (6952)…

At the same time, the number of people emigrating to Australia has dropped, by 9 per cent to 127,458 in the past year, making the ratio of departures to arrivals a record high…

Upon reading this article, I decided to crunch the numbers to determine how Australia’s migration numbers are tracking. The below chart shows the permanent arrivals vs permanent departures numbers alluded to in the above article. The ratio of arrivals to departures is also shown:

As you can see, the number of net permanent arrivals into Australia – around 45,000 for the 12 months to September 2011 – is well below the long-run average (around 65,000). The ratio of arrivals to departures is also in long-term decline and currently sits at a 35-year low of 1.5 times.

However, the broader net overseas migration (NOM) statistics published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which measures in/out migration of anyone residing/leaving Australia for a period of 12 months or more (rather than permanently), paints a different picture.

According to these statistics, NOM is still above long-term trends, but has declined sharply from the peak level seen in the year to September 2008, from around 315,000 to 170,000:

With the decline in NOM, Australia’s population growth has also fallen significantly, from a peak of just under 470,000 in the year to September 2008 to just under 320,000. The share of population growth coming from immigration has also fallen over the same period from a peak of 67% to 54%.

Finally, in percentage terms, it appears that Australia’s population growth and immigration are returning to average levels after surging in the 3 years to 2008:

With the ABS scheduled to release the June quarter NOM data in mid-December, it will be interesting to see whether Australia’s NOM mirrors the permanent arrivals/departures figures and registers another fall.

This piece originally appeared at Macrobusiness.

Leith van Onselen writes daily as the Unconventional Economist at MacroBusiness Australia. He has held positions at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and currently works at a leading financial services company. Follow him @leithVO.

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