Population


Monthly Statistical Bulletin Feature Articles

The level of Australia's population has become an issue of debate over recent years. This debate has included issues of total population size, immigration and ageing. Knowledge of the population at any time is vital in resolving these debates and in subsequent government planning decisions.

Population is also used on a routine basis for such administrative purposes as the determination of electoral representation and the allocation of Australian government funding among the States.

There are two main measures of population. One of these is the census measure, the other is an estimate called the estimated resident population.

Census

Every five years the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) conducts a census of the population of Australia. One of the results of this process is a total enumeration of the population of Australia. The census includes all people in Australia at the time of the census with a few minor exceptions. The census provides the benchmark measure of Australia's population and the measure on which estimates are made in the period between censuses.

Population estimates

Between censuses the ABS makes quarterly estimates of Australia's population based on the census figures with allowances made for overseas visitors and Australian residents temporarily overseas at the time of the census and for a number of other statistical reasons. These estimates are made using data on natural increase and overseas migration. The most usually quoted figures for Australia's population come from these estimates.

Natural increase

Natural increase is defined as the number of live births less the number of deaths.

Natural increase has been the major source of growth in Australia's population in recent years. Figure 1 shows Australia's natural increase in the period since September 1971.

Figure 1 shows Australia's natural increase in the period since September 1971.

Overseas migration

Overseas migration is made up of two components-overseas arrivals and overseas departures. The only migration movements counted in the process of population estimation are permanent and long-term arrivals and departures. Short-term movements-those of twelve months or less-are excluded. Net estimated overseas migration is the result of subtracting departures from arrivals. Allowance is made in these estimates for people who 'jump' categories from short to long-term and vice versa.

The migration component of population growth is more volatile than natural increase because it is directly caused by government immigration policies which are responsive to political, social and economic conditions in Australia and in the rest of the world.

Figure 2 shows Australia's net overseas migration in the period since September 1971.

Figure 2 shows Australia's net overseas migration in the period since September 1971.

Estimated resident population

The estimated resident population of Australia is the population obtained by adding to the estimated resident population at the start of a period natural increase and net overseas migration.

MESI Table 7.1

Monthly Economic and Social Indicators Table 7.1 shows:

  •  quarterly data on natural increase, net overseas migration and resident population;
  •  annual totals for natural increase and net overseas migration; and
  •  mean-average-annual population.

Monthly data on natural increase and net overseas migration are graphed to show the movement in the series over the past few years.

Further information can be obtained by contacting a member of the Statistics Group, Information and Research Services, Department of the Parliamentary Library.

This feature was prepared by Greg Baker.

 

 

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